The Dodgers go for their fourth straight win on Wednesday night in San Francisco, and will send Ricky Nolasco to the mound against the Giants in the second game of the series.
When Nolasco was acquired from the Marlins on July 6 I joked in the comments that he would match Doyle Alexander's 1987 production for the Tigers. Detroit acquired the 36-year-old Alexander for the stretch run 26 years ago, and though everyone remembers that future Hall of Fame pitcher John Smoltz, then 20 years old, went the other way in the deal, Alexander gave the Tigers everything they needed.
Alexander was 9-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 11 starts for the Tigers, and Detroit won all 11 games he took the mound. Those were much needed wins for the Tigers, who won the American League East over the Blue Jays on the final day of the season with a win over Toronto.
The one caveat for Alexander is that, for as great as he was to get Detroit to the playoffs, he was a disaster in the ALCS against the Twins. He pitched into the eighth inning in Game 1 but allowed six runs in an 8-5 loss at the Metrodome. Five days later Alexander recorded just five outs but gave up four more runs as the Twins closed out the Tigers in Game 5 in Detroit.
Nolasco in his first 12 starts with the Dodgers was 8-1 with a 2.07 ERA, shattering every expectation of him at the time of the trade. He had 62 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 74 innings, and made a strong push to be the Dodgers' No. 3 starter come October, taking nothing away from the season-long contributions of Hyun-jin Ryu.
But the last two starts for Nolasco have not been good. At all.
On Sept. 14 against the Giants at Dodger Stadium, Nolasco was tagged for seven runs (five earned) while recording just four outs, as San Francisco set a Dodger Stadium record with 19 runs scored. Last Thursday in Phoenix with a chance to close out the division, Nolasco was staked to a 3-0 lead but had a disastrous third inning that saw the Diamondbacks score six runs on seven hits.
In his last two starts Nolasco has given up 11 earned runs in 6⅓ innings, matching his total allowed in his previous nine starts combined, covering 51⅔ innings.
Was Nolasco simply taking the Doyle Alexander comparison to its conclusion with those two bad starts?
The good news is that there is plenty of time for Nolasco to turn things around. After his final regular season start on Wednesday, it could be a while before Nolasco pitches again. If he is the Game 4 starter for the Dodgers, he wouldn't start again until Monday, Oct. 7 at the earliest, 12 days from now.
But first things first for Nolasco, who first has the Giants to tackle on Wednesday night. In his career at AT&T Park he is 4-0 with a 1.47 ERA in five starts. This is his first start in San Francisco as a Dodger.
- Dodgers starting pitchers have allowed three runs (two earned) in the last four games, with 25 strikeouts and eight walks in 25⅓ innings.
- Dodgers starters have a 3.35 ERA in seven starts at AT&T Park this season. Dodgers starters not named Matt Magill have a 2.31 ERA in six starts in San Francisco.
Time: 7:15 p.m.
TV: KCAL, ESPN