At 5:00 pm, the NLDS gets started with the Milwaukee Brewers against the Colorado Rockies and at 8:30 pm, the Atlanta Braves and Los Angeles Dodgers get going. The Braves have a predictable line-up and they are starting Mike Foltynewicz, but for the Dodgers, they will start lefty Hyun-Jin Ryu and not Clayton Kershaw who will start tomorrow on extra rest as he last pitched on Saturday. This could be a very well thought out strategy by the analytics group with the Dodgers or a move that could be highly criticized if it does not work-out.
On an extra day’s rest, Kershaw has a 2.56 ERA this season, and he is even better with the extra rest day coupled with a start in Dodgers Stadium as his ERA improves to 2.24. Ryu, has been excellent since he returned from the DL with a groin injury on August 15th, and he has delivered for the Dodgers with a 1.88 ERA in his last 9 starts. On the other hand, in Foltynewicz’s one start this season against the Dodgers he gave up 4 runs in 5 innings. He is better on the road, but in the second half of the season, Foltynewicz had a 3.10 ERA. Also, he last pitched on Friday and with extra rest, Foltynewicz is not as good.
For the Braves starter tonight, he throws the slider and curveball along with a sinker and 4-seamer and a change-up. If Ryu can bring home the win tonight for the Dodgers, it sets up their team nicely tomorrow with Kershaw against the veteran Anibal Sanchez. That would most likely set-up Walker Buehler in Atlanta against Sean Newcomb in Game 3.
The Nationals statistically had the same choice as the Dodgers are making now back in the 2016 NLDS. The Nats ace Max Scherzer struggled in his last start of that season to secure win #20 which he was able to do with 10-runs of support as Scherzer gave up 5-runs over 5 innings throwing a full-game’s worth of 96-pitches, and looked fatigued. Instead of Scherzer starting Game #2 like Kershaw is tomorrow, Dusty Baker pitched Max in Game #1 and he struggled. Scherzer gave up 4-runs on 2 home runs over 6 innings on 91 pitches, and the Nationals lost 4-3.
Kershaw had to pitch over the weekend for the Dodgers as they needed every win to avoid the dreaded Wild Card game. In 2016, the Nationals had the season wrapped up early, but yet they did not re-seed earlier to rest Scherzer who was in-line to win his 20th game if he stayed on schedule and started the final game of the regular season. Of course the Game #1 starter gets an extra day’s rest for Game #5, and Scherzer pitched a gem only to watch the bullpen blow it, but if you do it right, you win the NLDS in 3 or 4 games negating any need for a winner-take-all Game #5 roll-of-the-dice.
We will see how the Dodgers strategy pays-off as all of the starters get a breather after their nail-biter finish to their season and the Game #163 showdown with the Rockies for the NL West division crown.
The Brewers and the Rockies both played in separate Game #163 tie-breakers, and the Rockies had to then play the next day in the Wild Card game which they did in a dramatic 13-inning win over the Cubs to advance to the NLDS. Both teams are not set-up with their #1 pitchers, and Brewers manager Craig Counsell has scheduled a bullpen game with righty Brandon Woodruff taking the start of the game. The Rockies will start righty Anthony Senzetela as their ace, Kyle Freeland and #2 pitcher German Marquez will be set-up for Game #3 and #4 as Tyler Anderson is scheduled to pitch tomorrow against the Brewers #1 Jhoulys Chacin.
While three of the teams in the NLDS did not have the opportunity to seed their rotation, the Braves are the only one who had their #1 ready on extra rest due to their easy finish to the season.
Two teams will lose today and fall into that dreaded 0-1 hole in a best 3-of-5 series. We will see how each team’s strategy works. On the NLDS rosters, the Rockies had the only surprise move as they left off their pre-season #1 pitcher, Jon Gray, off of their NLDS roster. Ex-Nat Matt Albers also did not make the Brewers roster for the NLDS. Another ex-Nat, Nyjer Morgan, was asked to throw out the first pitch for the Brewers. An interesting choice by the Brewers.
“I mean, in my eyes, I don’t think I’ll ever step back out on the field,” Morgan said. “On top of that, just to be out there and know that this first game means so much for the team’s camaraderie and what they need to do gets me [excited]. So I’m going to do what I can do to get it going. I’m a leadoff guy.”
The reason Morgan was chosen by the Brewers for the ceremonial 1st pitch was because Morgan a.k.a “Tony Plush” was the walk-off hero in Game #5 of the 2011 NLDS against the Arizona Diamondbacks when he was batting in the bottom of the 10th inning hit a walk-off single that gave the Brewers their first postseason series victory in 29 years.
It’s go time. You might see a familiar face like Gio Gonzalez in the Brewers’ dugout, Ryan Madson in the Dodgers’ bullpen tonight, and Ian Desmond will be starting at 1st base for the Rockies with a good chance to face Gio later in the series.