Diamondbacks-Dodgers preview: LA’s path to the NLDS, NL West crown
Oct 5, 2023, 2:40 PM
(AP Photo/Ryan Sun)
The Arizona Diamondbacks are set to face a notorious foe in the National League Division Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Merrill Kelly will take the hill for Arizona while the Dodgers will turn to lefty veteran Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, but how exactly did Los Angeles get here?
The NL West rival walked to yet another division championship going 100-62 in the regular season and beating the second-place D-backs by 16 games, their 10th division crown in the last 11 years. L.A. earned the No. 2 seed and a direct bid to the NLDS, only trailing the Atlanta Braves in the National League.
Despite the constant regular season success over the years, L.A. has had little success in the postseason. It has bowed out in the NLDS five times, NLCS two times, lost in the World Series twice and took home MLB’s crown once (COVID-19 shortened season).
The Dodgers rotation is still headed by 35-year-old pitcher Clayton Kershaw who has dialed into the fountain of youth with a spectacular season once again, recording a 2.46 ERA, 1.063 WHIP and 9.4 batters struck out per nine innings.
But, Kershaw has posted a 13-12 record with an ERA of 4.22, 213 strikeouts and one save in 38 appearances in the postseason in his career.
Los Angeles was without Walker Buehler all season, one of their best pitchers in the rotation after he underwent Tommy John Surgery last offseason. Despite that, the Dodgers posted a 4.06 team ERA as a staff (13th in the majors) and had a 1.20 WHIP (5th).
Behind Kershaw, L.A.’s roatation is also littered with inexperience, having rookie Bobby Miller as the current No. 2, Ryan Pepiot (17 career games played) and rookie Emmet Sheehan. Veteran Lance Lynn is currently on the Bereavement List and could be an option for Game 2 or 3.
Although their pitching has been formidable despite their injuries, it has been their clutch hitting and star power that carried them through the season.
Do-it-all player Mookie Betts has had a career year in southern California, slashing .307/.408/.579 with 39 homers, 107 RBIs, 96 walks and 14 stolen bases en route to his seventh All-Star Game appearance. He will likely finish second in the National League MVP voting behind Atlanta Braves outfielder Ronald Acuna Jr.
The problem is that the firepower does not stop at Betts. First baseman Freddie Freeman is slashing .331/.410 (career high)/.567 with 29 long balls and 102 RBIs.
There are power threats all over the lineup including Will Smith, Max Muncy and J.D. Martinez, players that the D-backs fans are all too familiar with.
L.A. ranks seventh in the bigs with a .257 team batting average, second in home runs (249), RBIs (877), walks (644), on-base percentage (.340) and slugging (.455).
Arizona pitchers Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly, rookie Brandon Pfaadt and an in-form bullpen have a tall task ahead of them.