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2021 Series Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers @ Houston Astros

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The Astros (26-21, 2nd in AL West) return home for nine games starting with two against our old friends, the Dodgers (29-18, 2nd in NL West)

World Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Houston Astros - Game Five Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Narrative

The Dodgers come to town on the upswing after sweeping the Giants and rising back up to second place in their division, where they now sit just a half game behind the Padres. LA got off to a blistering start this season by quickly jumping out to a 13-3 record, but hit a cold spell after that and fell all the way to 18-17 and third in the NL West. They’ve managed to turn things around though and have won 11 of their last 12 games and are riding a 7 game winning streak into Houston.

Of course, no one really expects the Dodgers to not win the NL West this year. The Padres are certainly making it interesting for them, as is the surprise Giants, and all three currently sit within 1.5 games of each other at the top of the division. Still, the Dodgers are too resilient to discount in 2021, as shown by them hitting an impressive run just as their fortunes in the NL West were sinking.

The Dodgers have been able to do all that thanks in part to an offense that has papered over some big injuries that LA has suffered this season. While they don’t lead the league in most offensive stats, they are firmly in the top ten in almost all of them. A collective slash line of .248/.345/.412 puts LA’s bats firmly in third for OPS in MLB and demonstrates where they really excel this season: getting on base.

The Dodgers lead the league in both OBP (.345) and walks (209). So while they may not be as prolific as some other top tier teams when it comes to power and batting, LA is the kind of team that always puts pressure on opposing pitchers with base runners.

It also helps that Dodgers pitching has been world class as a team so far in 2021. As a group, Dodgers pitching leads the league in both WHIP (1.05) and BAA (.203), and are second in ERA (2.99). This is mainly thanks to the starters, who have been elite so far this season. The bullpen has been closer to so-so, but they’re hardly a group of slouches.

Of course, no preview of this series would be complete without mentioning the sign stealing scandal and how this is a chance for revenge and Trevor Bauer in MMP and blah blah blah. Honestly, I’m kind of over it at this point. Joe Kelly trying to stir the pot with his whole “I’ll throw a beer back at the crowd” comment was weak and felt more contrived than anything. The idea that the two teams should fight or try to bean each other is tired commentary.

Even worse, that commentary would distract you from the fact that we’re about to see two teams that are expected compete all the way to the finish line go head to head. That should be the narrative because it’s going to be a good series thanks to good baseball being played, not because of a scandal we learned about almost 2 years ago about something that happened 4 years ago.

Ok, mini-rant over.

Quick Notes

  • Muncy coming in hot: Max Muncy (.292/.460/.549) has been resurgent for the Dodgers this season, turning in some of the best numbers of his career. Not only that but he’s been seeing the ball well recently with 10 hits and 4 walks in his last seven games, including a couple of dingers.
  • Hitting above average: The Dodgers have 5 players with at least 100 plate appearances that have an OPS north of .800. Besides Muncy, this includes Chris Taylor (.279/.406/.486), Will Smith (.279/.372/.492), Mookie Betts (.258/.366/.452), and Justin Turner (.267/.362/.447).
  • Bellinger and Seager in absentia: The Dodgers are still without Cody Bellinger, who went on the IL in early April with a hairline fracture in his leg. He is currently on rehab assignment and is expected to be reactivated soon, but it looks like he will miss the Houston series. At the same time, Corey Seager was recently placed on the IL with a broken hand after being hit by a pitch, so he will also be out for this series.
  • Walks giveth, walks taketh: While the offense may lead the league in walks at 209, the Dodgers’ pitching staff is also third in the league at walks surrendered with 189 BB. So I’ll call it a wash.
  • Kenly Jansen is kind of odd: Kenley Jansen has been having a dominant season in the closer position for the Dodgers. He’s successfully converted 11 of his 13 save opportunities and has a sparkling 1.31 ERA in 20.2 IP. At the same time he’s walked 15 batters, the most of any of LA’s relievers and tied for 3rd in the league. Still he’s only surrendered 5 runs so far in 2021, with just 3 earned. So even though he’s allowing a good number of free passes, he’s done an excellent job of keeping opposing teams from cashing in.
  • High Leverage: You can probably expect to see Blake Treinen and Victor Gonzalez in high leverage roles for the Dodgers this series. Treinen has already stepped in a couple of times to notch some saves on days off for Jansen. They both sport ERA’s below two with 1.89 for Treinen and 1.69 for Gonzalez.

Pitching Matchups

Game 1: Clayton Kershaw (LHP, 6-3, 3.18 ERA, 65 K’s) vs Zack Greinke (RHP, 4-1, 3.77 ERA, 48 K’s)

Kershaw gets the ball to start the series for the Dodgers and it looks like it’s going to be a tough one for the Astros’ offense. There is some hope as Kershaw has already dropped three clunkers on the season. However, he looked on point in his last outing by firing off 6 innings of 2-run ball against the Diamondbacks. He didn’t do so well the last time he pitched in Minute Maid Park though, which was Game 5 of the 2017 World Series.

Game 2: Trevor Bauer (RHP, 5-2, 1.98 ERA, 88K’s) vs Luis Garcia (RHP, 2-3, 3.38 ERA, 47 K’s)

For the rest of my days I will never understand how Trevor Bauer fenagled such a huge contract over a season and a half of good play and being a loudmouthed troll. But, I must admit that so far he has been exactly as advertised for the Dodgers in 2021. In 10 games this season he has only given up more than 2 earned runs once and has reached the 6th inning in all but one game. He hasn’t given up an earned run in his last two starts and his .140 BAA and 0.77 WHIP on the season are ridiculously good.

For Your Viewing and Listening Pleasure

Game 1: Tuesday, May 25th @ 7:10 pm CDT
Listen: Dodgers - Dodgers Radio AM570, KTNQ 1020 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010, KTRH 740 AM/99.1 FM HD-2
Watch: Dodgers - SportsNet LA, SNLA Deportes / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / FS1

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Game 2: Wednesday, May 26th @ 6:40 pm CDT
Listen: Dodgers - Dodgers Radio AM570, KTNQ 1020 / Astros - KBME 790 AM/94.5 FM HD-2, KLAT 1010
Watch: Dodgers - SportsNet LA, SNLA Deportes / Astros - ATT SportsNet-SW / ESPN (out-of-market only)

Poll

Who wins this series?

This poll is closed

  • 16%
    Astros Sweep 2-0
    (22 votes)
  • 50%
    Series Split 1-1
    (65 votes)
  • 33%
    Dodgers Sweep 2-0
    (43 votes)
130 votes total Vote Now