NLDS First look: October road starts in Washington
By Cary Osborne
The next time we see the Dodgers will be Friday in Washington D.C. for Game 1 of the National League Division Series — which has been a comfortable place for Los Angeles the last few years.
The Dodgers were 2-1 in Washington this year and last, 5-1 overall against the Nationals this year and 9-3 the last two seasons.
But the standout storyline heading into the series is health. The Dodgers, banged up all season — a Major League record 28 different players on the disabled list — are the healthiest they’ve been all season. And the opposite is true for the Nationals, managed by former Dodger hero Dusty Baker.
We won’t see Stephen Strasburg, who hasn’t pitched since September 7 because of an elbow injury.
Wilson Ramos, who led all Major League catchers with an .850 OPS and finished second in the NL to Yasmani Grandal with 22 homers, tore the ACL in his right knee on September 26 and is done for the season.
Daniel Murphy, who punished the Dodgers in last year’s NLDS while he was a Met, hadn’t played since September 20 until he pinch hit on Sunday. He’s been out with strained buttocks. Murphy, who led the N.L. with a .985 OPS and led the Nats with 25 homers, hasn’t hit a home run since August 26.
Bryce Harper hurt his thumb sliding into third base on September 25 and missed four games this week. Harper is 2 for 11 since returning. He has one home run and is batting .196 in his last 27 games.
There are a number of similarities with these teams.
The Nationals barely edged the Dodgers for best bullpen ERA in the Majors — 3.350 to 3.352.
Among relievers who pitched at least 50 innings this year, Washington closer Mark Melancon ranked first in the National League with a 1.66 ERA. Kenley Jansen ranked second at 1.83.
The teams’ workhorse relievers ranked seventh and ninth respectively in ERA — Washington’s Blake Treinen (73 games, 2.28) and Joe Blanton (75 games and 2.48 ERA).
Each team had eight players reach double digits in home runs.
Each team had a rookie who lifted his team — 22-year-old Corey Seager for the Dodgers and 23-year-old middle infielder/outfielder Trea Turner, who OPSed .937 in 73 games. Turner didn’t become a regular in the Nationals lineup until mid-July.
However, one considerable difference is Washington is much more active on the basepaths, stealing 121 bases this season to the Dodgers’45.
Now to the Dodgers’ biggest weakness — left-handed pitching. The Dodgers had the lowest batting average and OPS against lefties this year. However, Washington isn’t lefty heavy. Of the trio we know who will start — Max Scherzer, Tanner Roark and Gio Gonzalez — Gonzalez is the only lefty. He’s beaten the Dodgers twice in his two starts the last two years, having allowed one earned run in 14 innings. Joe Ross, who would appear to be the Nats’ fourth starter option in the series, is right-handed.
Oliver Perez, who led Washington lefties with 64 appearances, held lefties to a .233 average, but had a 4.95 ERA overall. Sammy Solis, who held lefties to a .197 average this year, pitched three times this week after missing a month and a half with left shoulder inflammation.
As for the way the Dodgers finished, does it matter? They went 5-5 in their last 10 games. Washington went 6-4. Both teams have the next four days off.