#953 Los Angeles Dodgersvs.#954 San Francisco Giants
Written by Matt Severance
When/Where: Saturday, 4:05 p.m. ET, AT&T Park, San Francisco
Moneylines: LA Dodgers -200/San Francisco +180
It’s a must-win game for the San Francisco Giants on Saturday for their wild-card hopes. But the rival Los Angeles Dodgers could put a major crimp in the Giants’ plans with a win and Los Angeles, with nothing to play for, starts ace Clayton Kershaw on the bump.
There’s really no reason for most of the Dodgers regulars to play as they are locked into facing the NL East champion Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series next week. But maybe Manager Dave Roberts keeps his regulars in there because the team will have a few days off before opening the playoffs. Plus the fact the Dodgers could help keep the Giants from the playoffs has to be appealing. Dodgers second-year outfielder Joc Pederson hit his 25th home run on Wednesday, giving the club four players with 25 or more home runs. Yasmani Grandal, Corey Seager and Justin Turner also have hit that mark. It is the fourth time the Dodgers have accomplished that feat, also doing it in 1997, 1977 and 1955.
As for Kershaw, I’m fascinated to see him in the playoffs because while he’s the best pitcher alive, he has struggled in the postseason in his career. But maybe he’s as fresh as he has ever been in the postseason after missing a chunk of the season on the disabled list. The only Dodgers starter who will enter the playoffs with a season of heavy usage is Kenta Maeda, who will make his 32nd start Sunday. Kershaw (12-3, 1.65) has a 0.83 ERA in four starts since his return from the DL. He will head into the playoffs with fewer than 150 innings after posting more than 230 innings in two of the last three years. Kershaw is 2-0 with a 1.86 ERA in four starts this year vs. the Giants.
San Francisco might not have third basemen Eduardo Nunez, acquired around the trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins, for this series. He injured his right hamstring on a slide last Sunday. An MRI showed nothing serious but it’s apparently still bothering Nunez. Since this series means so much, I’m sure he will be out there if at all possible. “It’s going to be questionable this weekend,” Manager Bruce Bochy said. “Each day I’ll get better information [about] where he’s at.”
So who starts on the mound? The Giants say they know but aren’t letting on. The decision is down to Albert Suarez (3-5, 4.29) and Ty Blach (0-0, 2.00), who both took batting practice with the starters before Wednesday’s game. The numbers say pitching the rookie southpaw Blach would be the smart play because the Dodgers own the worst OPS in the majors against lefties. But Blach has made only three appearances this year and not lasted more than three innings. Suarez has made 22 appearances and 12 starts. He last pitched Sept. 23 in San Diego and allowed three runs and five hits over four innings. The Giants have lost his past nine outings, whether as a starter or a reliever. It’s likely to be him.
Hate to go with the team that has nothing to play for, but how can you not take Kershaw in this pitching mismatch? He has been nearly unhittable against since returning from the DL and has dominated the Giants all season. The Dodgers are 5-0 in their past five Saturday games.
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Matt has been a sports journalist for nearly two decades. He is a former sports editor/writer at two newspapers and a magazine. Went full-time freelance sports writer in 2008 -- not by choice then but became a life-changing decision in the best possible way. Consider myself expert on all major US sports. If you are looking for Curling or Badminton expertise, etc., I'm not your guy.