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Series #37: Athletics vs Dodgers - Holding Steady

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MLB: Houston Astros at Los Angeles Dodgers Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

DodgersCurrent Record:

62-51, second place in the National League West, just half a game behind the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Dodgers, like the A’s, are currently in possession of the second wild card spot.

Projected Lineup:

Joc Pederson - CF

Manny Machado - 3B

Justin Turner - DH

Matt Kemp - LF

Yasmani Grandal - C

Brian Dozier - 2B

Cody Bellinger - 1B

Chris Taylor - SS

Yasiel Puig - RF

Probable Starting Pitchers:

Rich Hill - LHP

Clayton Kershaw - LHP

Recent Bullpen Usage:

The Dodgers have done well to preserve their bullpen and the entire staff should be good to go for both games of this short series, especially with the Dodgers coming off of an off day.

Hottest Hitter(s):

Manny Machado is the biggest name that the Dodgers acquired at the deadline, but so far it has been Brian Dozier who is doing his best Manny Ramirez impression in his first few games in Dodger blue. In his first five games with his new team, Dozier is slashing .400/.500/1.000 with two home runs and three doubles. Joc Pederson and Yasmani Grandal have been providing the power for the Dodgers this half, with the two players hitting ten home runs between them since the All Star Break.

Coldest Hitter(s):

Matt Kemp’s All Star worthy first half hasn’t translated to the latter half, not yet anyways. Kemp has been below the Mendoza line since play has continued, and only has three extra base hits in sixteen games played. Kike Hernandez has also slowed down in the second half while getting regular playing time due to injuries up and down the squad, perhaps getting overexposed as he plays more often.

Hottest Pitcher(s):

Not everyone in the Dodgers’ starting rotation is a shining star, but those who are are shining brighter than just about anyone else in baseball right now. Clayton Kershaw, of course, is simply superhuman on the mound, and in three starts in the second half he has a 1.83 ERA and a 10:1 strikeout to walk ratio. Rich Hill, and his cornucopia of curveballs, has only given up two runs in three starts this half. With the A’s primed to face both lefties this series, the A’s bats may very well have fits for much of this series.

Coldest Pitcher(s):

Not all acquisitions have worked out for the Dodgers. Old friend Jonathan Axford has given up six runs in one third of an inning pitched in LA, giving him a 162.00 ERA with his new team. After being one of their primary weapons last postseason, Kenta Maeda has lost his magic touch of late and has labored through his last handful of starts.

Key Injuries:

It is a testament to the Dodgers resilience (cough cough payroll cough cough) that the team has been able to stay competitive despite a slew of injuries in every corner of the roster. The team lost superstar Corey Seager before the season had a chance to get started, and while Justin Turner is back, he’s been banged up lately as well and the Dodgers may need to give him extra rest. Kemp has also been hurt, as have Chase Utley and Yasiel Puig. On the pitching side, Tom Koehler is due to miss the entire year, and Alex Wood may very well join him. The back end of the rotation has been further hampered by injuries to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ross Stripling, and health has done the Dodgers’ bullpen no favors either.

It must be nice to be so rich that none of that really matters.

* * *

The A’s did their job in beating up on the Blue Jays and Tigers, but their job gets a whole lot muckier for the next two days by taking on two of the toughest lefty starters in all of baseball. However, with the A’s starting pitching nearly perfect over the A’s last two series, the A’s have proven that they don’t need to score more than just a couple of runs to maintain their winning ways. With the Astros, Yankees, and Mariners all taking on easier competition in the first half of this week, the A’s will need to play hard just to not lose any ground on the teams they are chasing.

The A’s split their first series with the Dodgers this season, but considering how early in the year that series was and how different each team looks now, that first series should have very little implications regarding how this one will shake out. The Dodgers reinforced offense is an intimidating one, jam packed full of star power and home run power. Kershaw is potentially one of the top two or three left handed starting pitchers in the long and storied history of the sport, and A’s fans had the pleasure of witnessing Rich Hill reinventing himself into one of the most deceptive pitchers in the game before their very eyes. No matter how hot the A’s have been lately, nothing in this series will come easy.

Game #114: Tuesday, August 7th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, Sportsnet LA, SNLA Spanish, MLB.tv

Sean Manaea vs Rich Hill

The A’s have been trying to go easy on Sean Manaea’s arm lately, in an effort to keep it fresher later in the season. This coddling of his arm has come at the expense of the bullpen, which has been an overworked godsend this year. As the season enters the late summer, it will be interesting to see if the A’s strategies reverses in an effort to give the bullpen extra rest as Manaea practices getting deeper into ballgames once more. The A’s offense has long struggled against good offspeed stuff, and against Rich Hill the A’s will be facing some of the best curveballs and sliders in the sport. The best strategy for Oakland will be to drive up Hill’s pitch count and go after the Dodgers soft bullpen underbelly.

Game #115: Wednesday, August 8th, 7:05 - NBCSCA, Sportsnet LA, SNLA Spanish, MLB Network, MLB.tv

Mike Fiers vs Clayton Kershaw

Fiers is set to make his A’s debut on Wednesday after being acquired for either cash or two mystery players, whichever winds up being more appetizing to the Tigers. He’ll be charged with helping the A’s beat Kershaw, which is as close to an impossible task as it gets in baseball. The A’s have beaten a fair share of aces this season, and so this game certainly isn’t hopeless in any capacity, but the odds aren’t in the team’s favor. With the countless clutch performances permeating this season for the A’s, however, it probably isn’t worth it to pay the odds any mind anyhow.