The decision to push Clayton Kershaw back to start game 2 instead of game 1 raised some eyebrows amongst Dodger faithful. Yet the Dodgers were rewarded handsomely for it when Hyun-jin Ryu turned in another excellent performance completely shutting down the Braves in game 1 of the NLDS on Thursday night. Ryu tossed seven shutout innings and the Dodgers cruised to an easy 6-0 victory.
Will things continue to be this easy for the Dodgers in the division series round? I’m not so sure but I think it’s safe to say the Dodgers are in the driver’s seat. After all by winning the first game the Dodgers have forced the inexperienced Atlanta squad to have to win three of their next four games. That’s not an easy task to do against any team. When a team wins the first game of the series they have a 72% chance of winning the series. I’m feeling fairly confident at the moment. That could change quickly. Is it too soon to talk about a sweep?
Kershaw actually takes the mound tonight in game 2 as the Braves will counter with veteran right hander Anibal Sanchez. Kershaw is coming off a dreadful outing in San Francisco in which he gave up five runs to a terrible Giants lineup. Can he rebound with an effective start at home? Chad recently detailed about the myth of Kershaw not pitching well in the postseason. If you look at his numbers in his good starts, (which greatly outnumber the bad starts) you can see that Kershaw has actually been pretty effective in the playoffs. If you take out his five or six poor outings. Although this year seems to be a year in which he is unable to regain the velocity on his fastball. The question is, how much do you trust Kershaw this year?
Let’s talk about Sanchez for a minute. He’s had a surprisingly good season after coming off of three consecutive down seasons in the American League. Sanchez posted a 2.83 ERA in 24 starts for Atlanta while striking out 8.9. His peripheral numbers look good too. He’s allowed just 7.0 hits per nine and posted a 1.083 WHIP over 136.2 innings pitched. He hasn’t allowed many home runs (15) and limits free passes (42 walks against 135 strikeouts) How has he fared against the Dodgers?
In seven career starts Sanchez is 1-2 with a 3.63 ERA. He carries a 1.65 ERA over three career starts at Dodger Stadium. He’s faced the Dodgers twice in 2018, winning once back on June 9 at Dodger Stadium, and then losing to the boys in blue back on July 26 in Atlanta. The good news is that the current Dodgers have hit him pretty well. The Dodgers are hitting .333 with seven home runs, and a .398 OBP. Manny Machado has 7 hits in 15 at-bats with three home runs. Brian Dozier has also hit three home runs against Sanchez too.
Sanchez vs. Dodgers
As for Kershaw, well he hasn’t been quite as Kershaw-like in 2018 but you know he’s still pretty damn good. He’s posted a 2.73 ERA over 161.1 innings pitched in 2018. He’s racked up 155 punch-outs against 29 walks and posted a 1.041 WHIP. But declining strikeout rates concern me. He’s faced Atlanta once in 2018 beating them back on July 27 (tossing 7.2 innings while allowing one earned run in six hits and striking out eight).
Kershaw has always pitched well against the Braves. He’s actually never lost. During his career he’s posted a 4-0 record and a 1.43 ERA over 10 career starts versus the Braves. That includes a postseason win in game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, and a no-decision in game 4 of that same series in which he pitched very well. In the regular season Kershaw strikes out Braves at a 10.2 per nine inning clip. The current Braves are hitting just .205 with a .530 OPS against Kershaw and he’s allowed just one home run (to Freddie Freeman) in 131 plate appearances.
Kershaw vs. Braves
I like the Dodgers chances to go to Atlanta up 2-0 in the series with a chance to sweep. However anything can happen in a short series. Let’s hope Kershaw is on his a-game, but this looks like a favorable pitching matchup for the Dodgers.
Game time 6:37 PM PST