For the better part of the last 10 weeks, the Dodgers’ starting rotation was very much like driving or flying in a thick fog. There was no point in trying to predict more than a few days ahead simply because visibility and circumstances didn’t allow it, and the main focus usually resolved around getting through the moment at hand in very careful fashion.
But now, the Dodgers appear to have the top of the rotation set exactly how they want it, beginning with a weekend series against the Marlins in Miami that features what will likely, should everything go as the Dodgers hope, be their playoff rotation, starting with the return of ace Clayton Kershaw a mere 75 days after his last major league start.
Here is a look at the probable pitchers this weekend in south Florida, beginning with a fantastic duel of aces in the series opener.
Friday, 4:10 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA, MLB Network)
Kershaw continues what was shaping up to be an historic campaign when he was sidelined, with a 1.79 ERA and 145 strikeouts against only nine walks in his 16 starts. He only threw three innings plus some extra bullpen work in his rehab start last Saturday in Rancho Cucamonga, so it stands to reason Kershaw will be limited somewhat in his first time back.
Limited though is a relative term, and for Kershaw probably won’t mean he’s getting pulled after four innings to limit his workload. But it means, at least in his first game back, he might not be around in the later innings, and surely his 7.56-inning average per start will go down.
The main thing for the Dodgers and for Kershaw is that he is healthy and effective while on the mound, whether he is 100 percent or still “pretty banged up” as Jon Heyman of Today’s Knuckleball reported on Thursday.
Among major league starting pitchers with 100 innings in 2016, Kershaw ranks second in strikeout rate (32.9%), behind only Jose Fernandez, who starts the opener for Miami. In 40 starts at home in his career, Fernandez is 27-2 with a 1.57 ERA.
Both home losses came this season, with Fernandez 10-2 thanks to his home ERA ballooning all the way to 1.91 in 14 starts, with 128 strikeouts in 89⅔ innings.
Saturday, 4:10 p.m. (SportsNet LA)
Rich Hill has pitched six scoreless innings in each of his two Dodgers starts. No pitcher in franchise history, at least back to 1913, has started his Dodgers career with three straight scoreless starts.
Tom Koehler has a 2.85 ERA in 10 starts since the All-Star break, with 52 strikeouts and 17 walks in 60 innings. He beat the Dodgers on Apr. 26 at Dodger Stadium, allowing three runs (two earned) on three hits in five innings, though he walked more (4) than he struck out (3).
Sunday, 10:10 a.m. (SportsNet LA)
Kenta Maeda has been the rock of the 2016 Dodgers rotation, leading the club with 27 starts and 153 innings, and is coming off a strong start of 6⅓ innings on Monday against Arizona. But he hasn’t lasted six or more innings in back-to-back starts since June 3-8.
Jose Urena had a 7.52 ERA in the bullpen before moving into the Marlins rotation after the All-Star break. He has a 4.63 ERA in eight starts, with 34 strikeouts and 14 walks in 44⅔ innings, though the numbers are a bit skewed thanks to an eight-run outing on July 29 against St. Louis.
Urena hit one of 99 batters faced as a reliever this season, but as a starter has five HBP in 191 batters faced. He got his first major league save by recording the final five outs at Dodger Stadium on April 27, including two strikeouts.