The Dodgers haven't been much of a running team this year, but maybe they will get their chance against Jon Lester and the Cubs in the third game of their four-game series on Wednesday night at Wrigley Field in Chicago. Or perhaps the left-hander's strides in keeping his opponents at bay on the bases will nip these running plans in the bud.
The root of Lester's problems with the running game lie mostly in his problems with throwing the ball to first base. The problem all but eliminates the chances of a pickoff throw of any veracity from Lester, and as such runners can time Lester's delivery and run at will, at least in theory.
Lester allowed 44 stolen bases in 2015, seven more than any pitcher in baseball, with runners successful at an 80-percent clip.
The Dodgers beat Lester twice last season, scoring nine runs on 12 hits in 10 innings against him, and stole three bases in three attempts in a win at Dodger Stadium on Aug. 29. LA was 0-for-1 in steal attempts last June 25 at Wrigley Field.
In 2016, Lester has really cut down on the running game. After 44 steal attempts in 32 starts last year, opponents have tried just eight times in 10 starts in 2016, and three have been caught. After two out of three Rockies were caught stealing on April 17, no opponent has attempted more than one steal in any single game against Lester this season.
David Ross has caught all 10 Lester starts this season, and caught 29 of his 32 starts last season, so it stands to reason that the veteran backstop old friend will catch Wednesday night too. Ross has thrown out eight of 25 would-be stealers (32 percent) in his 23 games started this season, while other Cubs catchers — Miguel Montero (18) and Tim Federowicz (three) — have yet to throw out a runner in 21 attempts in their 27 starts in 2016.
Howie Kendrick stole second on Tuesday night against Jake Arrieta and Montero, giving the Dodgers just 16 steals in 27 attempts on the season (59.3 percent), 12th in the National League in steals on the season.
But the Dodgers have been more aggressive of late, with seven steals in 10 attempts in their last nine games. To put that in perspective, the club had just eight steal attempts in their previous 29 games before that.
The Dodgers could also rely on their offense, which despite the lack of running has continued to produce on the road this season. The Dodgers scored five runs on Tuesday, their 15th road game with at least five runs this season, tied with the Cubs for the third-most such road games in 2016.
Wearing the road grays in 2016, the Dodgers are averaging 5.11 runs per game, hitting .253/.326/.389 compared to just .222/.294/.359 and 3.44 runs per game at Dodger Stadium.
Rotation in flux
Mike Bolsinger gets the start on Wednesday for the Dodgers, the beginning of a few days of great uncertainty in the starting rotation. Bolsinger's spot on Wednesday is fairly secure, but because of shuffling in the rotation last week it will be Bolsinger's first outing in eight days.
While the Dodgers await MRI results on the left elbow of Alex Wood, just where Julio Urias slots in remains to be seen. Kenta Maeda and the swelling in his hand will determine whether he can start on Thursday, and thinking even further ahead, pushing Clayton Kershaw back a day from Friday would allow him to also start against the rival Giants next week at home.
This all comes a few days after shutting down Hyun-jin Ryu because of soreness in his shoulder, though he could soon resume his minor league assignment, depending on how he feels.
Despite the relative chaos surrounding the rotation, the pitchers have performed well of late. No Dodgers starter has allowed more than three runs in the last eight games, and Urias with his short debut was the only one to actually allow three. Dodgers starters in those eight games have a 1.91 ERA, with 55 strikeouts and 14 walks in 47 innings.
Time: 5:05 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, ESPN (ESPN broadcast blacked out in LA markets, but not Chicago)