For the first time since July 30, 2016, David Freese will be the leadoff hitter. For the 35-year-old, this will be the fourth time in his career he’s led off a game, and probably none more important than tonight’s contest. With a win, the Dodgers will head back to the World Series for the second consecutive year.
This move comes after Milwaukee’s decision to pull Wade Miley after one batter on Wednesday. Though this isn’t likely to happen again, Dave Roberts wants to at least ensure Freese gets one at-bat against a lefty today.
“It’s more of still loving David’s at-bat quality and like him against Miley and just being able to see him a couple of times, depending on how the game goes,” Roberts said. “And I think that we’ve got some balance in there. David’s fine with hitting lead-off and understanding nothing with his approach changes.”
A name not in the lineup is Kiké Hernandez, who has cemented himself into an everyday starting role against left-handers.
Tonight is the first time Kiké Hernandez isn’t starting against a LHP since July 29, 2017. It snaps a span of 90 straight starts vs. southpaws.— Eric Stephen (@ericstephen) October 19, 2018
Hernandez also started the first 9 playoff games this year for the Dodgers
It’s an interesting move, as Cody Bellinger (.226 AVG) and Chris Taylor (.232) have had more struggles at the plate this year against left-handers than Hernandez (.260). However, out of the three, there’s no question Kiké’s bat has been the coldest. He doesn’t have a hit in his last 12 plate appearances, and he’s 2-for-22 (.091) this postseason.
“He’s prepared, not getting the results,” Roberts said. “But I still expect him to make an impact on today’s game. And I just like the way that Yasiel’s at-bats have been. I like him out there. So it’s just kind of the optionality of having Kiké off the bench and Yasi in this particular matchup.”
Bellinger got off to a slow start, but has found success over the last two games, going 3-for-7, as well as delivering the game-winning hit in game 4.
Taylor has been one of LA’s best hitters in October, hitting .333 with an OPS of .988.
Yet again, Austin Barnes gets the start instead of Yasmani Grandal. “I think that he’s really catching well,” Roberts said. “He’s having really good at-bats. Still have Yasmani’s bat off the bench is a plus with their bullpen. But I think right now Austin makes sense.”
Barnes has hits in back-to-back games, including bringing in the game-tying run in game 5.
“It says a lot about his perseverance and not letting this down year offensively get to him at this point in the season. And he’s prepared so well all year long consistently. And the thing for me is that his defense has never wavered or been compromised. That right there speaks to his character and makeup. And at the most critical time in the box he’s the most confident he’s been in quite some time.”
Hitting cleanup yet again will be Manny Machado. It will be interesting to see the reception he receives tonight. In LA, Machado was involved in multiple altercations, some that the Brewers didn’t take too lightly.
"It's a dirty play by a dirty player. I have a lot of respect for him as a player, but you can't respect someone who plays the game like that."— Stephen Watson (@WISN_Watson) October 17, 2018
Christian Yelich on Manny Machado pic.twitter.com/TocySpu8fK
Machado was hit by a pitch last game, but with a runner on-base, it’s unclear if they were trying to “retaliate” or if a pitch actually got away. It will definitely be an interesting storyline to follow nonetheless.