It has been a really long wait after an upsetting and troublesome loss, but on Friday in Miami the Dodgers will have a chance to do something they haven’t been able to do in months.
Beat the Marlins.
The Dodgers tried four times to do so April 25-28 at Dodger Stadium but each time were rebuffed by Miami, who swept a four-game series from Los Angeles for the first time ever, home or away. The Dodgers were left waiting for a win night after night in that series, much like Dee Gordon waited until after the end of the series to drop his behind-the-scenes appeal of his 80-game suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
That four-game sweep by the Marlins started a six-game losing streak for the Dodgers, at the time thought to be the low point of their season. But with a win on Friday, the Dodgers could match their season-best winning streak, having won their last five heading into this weekend series.
Clayton Kershaw is back to try and enhance those chances of winning, his first time on a major league mound in 75 days, since June 26 on Pittsburgh.
That was the true low point of 2016 for the Dodgers, who lost that night to the Pirates, and would soon lose Kershaw to the disabled list with a herniated disc in his back. LA was eight games behind the Giants in the National League West after that loss in Pittsburgh, but enter play on Friday five games ahead of San Francisco in the division, with just 23 games remaining.
Kershaw only threw three innings plus some extra time in the bullpen in his lone minor league rehab start last Saturday for Class-A Rancho Cucamonga, so it is unknown just how far he will be able to go his first time out. But the baseline is rather low for him to clear, and the bullpen is both well-rested and well-stocked to handle things once he’s through.
Dodgers starters since Kershaw’s last start — 11 different starters accounting for 62 games — posted a collective 4.61 ERA while averaging 4.94 innings per start. Though the rotation has been more stable of late, lasting at least five innings in six straight games and 14 of their last 15 contests.
Yet the club managed to go 38-24 (.613) during that span, the second-best record in baseball behind only the Cubs (41-24).
The record is thanks in large part to a pair of reasons:
- The bullpen held it together despite an increased workload, posting a 3.59 ERA despite an increased workload of 4.13 innings per game, up from 3.12 innings per game through June 26. Dodgers relievers also increased their strikeout rate in those last 62 games to 26.5%, up from 24.2% earlier in the season.
- The offense also picked up the slack, averaging 4.98 runs per game since Kershaw’s last start, third in the National League during that span. The club since June 27 is hitting .269/.338/.447, up from .236/.307/.385 and 4.14 runs in the first 77 games of the season.
That offense in Friday’s series opener will have to tangle with Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, who has struggled relatively since the All-Star break with a 4.08 ERA and 2.87 FIP in nine starts, after a 2.52 ERA and 2.11 FIP before the break.
Miami also got Giancarlo Stanton back this week after he missed 22 games with a groin strain. He was limited to pinch-hitting duty Tuesday and Wednesday, but his return might be too little, too late for a club and an offense that has struggled for nearly six weeks.
After July 31, the Marlins were in second wild card position in the National League, one game ahead of the Cardinals. But since then the club has averaged just 3.54 runs per game and is 12-23, now under .500 and five games out of the second wild card spot, with two teams (Cardinals and Pirates) in between them and the Mets.
Wednesday’s win over Philadelphia snapped a five-game losing streak, and the Marlins are just 2-10 in their last 12 games.
Dodgers (79-60) at Marlins (69-71)
Time: 4:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network