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Dodgers starters have been in control this season

Ed Zurga

It didn't take a rocket scientist to see heading into the season that starting pitching would be a strength of the Dodgers. But the starting staff has been in control than perhaps even more than anticipated.

Clayton Kershaw missed the equivalent of five weeks with an inflamed teres major muscle in his upper back, and Hyun-jin Ryu missed 3½ weeks with shoulder inflammation. Josh Beckett and Dan Haren have picked up the slack in the back end of the rotation, but the club has really taken off since Kershaw and Ryu returned to the rotation.

On the season Dodgers starters lead baseball in xFIP (3.30), SIERA (3.36) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (3.83), are second in ERA (3.09) and walk rate (5.6 percent), third in quality starts (50), fifth in strikeout rate (21.6 percent), sixth in FIP (3.60), and eighth in innings per start (6.1).

Since Ryu returned on May 21, the starters have kicked it into another gear, at 19-10 with a 2.76 ERA in 33 starts, averaging 6.4 inning per start with 199 strikeouts and just 37 walks in 212 innings, a 5.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Going deeper into games has helped the bullpen too. Dodgers relievers in those 33 games have a 2.71 ERA, with 72 strikeouts and 28 walks in 76⅓ innings. The Dodgers are 19-14 during that span, after a 24-22 start.

Dodgers starters have taken stinginess to a new level of late. Kershaw struck out eight and walked only one on Tuesday, extending the team's streak of games with two or fewer walks by its starter to 28 games.

The only streaks in baseball longer since 1914 were by the 1990 Pirates (31 straight, from Aug. 16 to Sept. 15) and the 1964 Colt 45s (30 straight, from Aug. 15 to Sept. 15).

Zack Greinke on Monday reached the 100-strikeout plateau and at the time had just 20 walks, the fewest by a Dodger since Don Sutton in 1966, also with 20 walks at the time of his 100th strikeout. Sandy Koufax has the lowest walks with 19 in 1965 when he struck out his 100th.

Kershaw, with 94 strikeouts and nine walks this year will obliterate that record, likely in his next start. He has been the leader in limiting walks, but for the Dodgers this year the control has been a staff-wide effort.