So the resurgent LA Dodgers, fresh off taking two of three from Washington and only a game removed from a four-game winning streak, jetted into Philadelphia, with their number one starter, Clayton Kershaw, and their supposed number two, the Whirling Darvish, set to start the first two games. Easy-peasy, right? Not so fast.
Two days later as the Dodgers prepare for game three in the City of Brotherly Love, they have now lost three in a row, and they failed to beat the team with the second-worst record in the National League, with either Kershaw or the Whirtling.
How can this be?
Well, in the first game, it was budding young Phillies’ star Aaron Altherr who, fighting
injuries and for playing time over his first three seasons up and down from the minors, but whonow has a regular outfield sspot. All he did was hit the FIRST EVER grand slam off of Kershaw. Fluke? I doubt it, as Altherr has hit a home run every 18 at bats this season, now having hit 18 in 96 games. Anyway, the grand slam turned around a 2-0 Dodgers’ lead, that looked like a lock for Kershaw to regain sole possession of the major league lead in victories with his 18th, despite his weeks on the disabled list. With that loss, it now looks pretty certain that NO major league pitcher will win 20 games in 2017.
Yesterday, the Whirling did pretty well, as he did against the Giants, semi-dominating the two worst teams in baseball. Skipped pitching against Washington, huh? Anyway, he limited the Phillies to one run through five-plus, and the Dodgers had a 2-1 lead. Then my-oh-my, Dave Roberts hit the bullpen, first for Tony Watson who did fine, but then for Pedro Baez, who gave up a triple, hit a better, got a pop-up, walked a batter, got a fly out, walked a batter and then gave up a three-run triple, turning the one-run lead into a two-run deficit. Brock Stewart gave up an eight-inning sixth run for the 6-2 final score.
But why should we, or Dave Roberts, be surprised at what happened when he brought in Baez? It’s not as if he’d been embodying the ghost of Hoyt Wilhelm the past few weeks. More like the ghost of Art Fowler. In fact, in Baez’s previous six appearances, through which he lasted a total of 3-2/3 innings, he allowed eight hits, six walks, and eight runs, six of them earned, for an ERA of 14.73 and a WHIP of 4.64. But shouldn’t we give Baez a little leeway? After all , it was the second coming of the 1927 yankees that he faced – including such monster hitting stars as J.P. Crawford, Jorge Alfaro, Cesar Hernandez, Freddy Galvis, Odubel Herrera, and then our guy Rhys Hoskins.
I wrote about Hoskins yesterday, and the only surprise in him hitting a three run triple to turn the game around was that it was not another grand slam. Rhys now has driven in 43 runs and hit 18 home runs in his first 39 major league games and 134 at bats. When is the last time ANY major league hitter drove in 43 runs over a span of 39 games? That is a pace for 179 for a full season, not to mention a pace for 75 home runs.
Well it’s Alex Wood’s turn today to face the resurgent Phillies and their suddenly powerful lineup featuring Hoskins, Altherr, Nick Williams and others. Wood is coming off his best
game in weeks, but he never pitches past the sixth inning. Who, out of the bullpen, would follow him, in say the sixth or seventh innings? The eighth and ninth should be covered just fine with Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen, but Roberts needs to find someone reliable for the sixth and seventh, and that is NOT Pedro Baez, and it’s also NOT Josh Ravin, Josh Fields, Ross Stripling or Brock Stewart. Assuming that the Dodgers’ playoff rotation is Kershaw, Whirling, Rich Hill and Alex Wood, then Roberts needs to start using his next best options, Kenta Maeda and Hyun-Jin Ryu in those spots.