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Dodgers pitchers have excelled in getting ahead

MLB: San Diego Padres at Los Angeles Dodgers Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

As the Dodgers finish off their four-game wraparound series against the Diamondbacks on Monday night, I think about a previous trip to Dodger Stadium about a decade earlier.

At a Dodger Thoughts night before a game, then assistant general manager Kim Ng spoke to a group of us, and one thing specifically that she said stood out to me. When asked what her favorite pitch was, she said quite simply, "Strike one."

She explained how big of an advantage it was for either side to be ahead in the count after the first pitch, and that remains true today.

In 2017, batters after getting ahead 1-0 in the count are hitting .252/.373/.427, but after falling behind 0-1 are hitting .215/.262/.346. Last year, the was roughly the difference between Alexei Ramirez and Bryce Harper.

Major league batters are down 0-1 in 49.5% of their plate appearances this season, and ahead 1-0 in 39.6% of the time. Putting the ball in play on the first pitch accounts for the rest, 10.9%.

Dodgers pitchers have done better than average in getting ahead of batters. They have been ahead 0-1 in 56.3% of their plate appearances, and down 1-0 in 34.5% of the time.

It goes a long way in explaining how the Dodgers are second in the majors, allowing 2.85 runs per game.

Brandon McCarthy in his two starts this season has been especially effective at getting ahead of hitters. Against 30 of his 44 batters faced (68.2%), McCarthy has been ahead 0-1, with opposing batters hitting just .148/.207/.296 in those situations.

The right-hander is 2-0 so far in his two starts, both quality starts, lasting six innings in each appearance. Those six innings have been welcome, with Dodgers starters averaging just 5.26 innings per start this season. That’s down from 5.32 innings per start in 2016, a season that saw Clayton Kershaw miss 10 weeks with a herniated disc in his back.

In 2016, the Dodgers’ non-Kershaw starters averaged 5.06 innings per start. So far in 2017 — all of 10 starts — the average is 4.70.

Robbie Ray gets the start for the Diamondbacks on Monday, the first of three consecutive left-handed pitchers the Dodgers will face to conclude their homestand.

Ray has four career starts at Dodger Stadium, and all of them are quality starts, but thanks to some hard luck the Diamondbacks have lost three of those four games despite Ray’s 2.52 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 15 walks in 25 innings.

Game info

Time: 7:10 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA