This week on the podcast, a look at the struggling Dodgers starting rotation and how they poorly navigated the minefield of the National League Central, losing six of seven games to the Cardinals and Brewers.
The starting staff has disappointed to start the season and things got worse with the injury to Hyun-jin Ryu. Clayton Kershaw is back and Rich Hill will soon follow, but the rest of the rotation has to improve regardless of when the reinforcements come.
In honor of Ross Stripling delivering the best Dodger start of the season on Sunday, this week’s Dodgers rewind is another Texas A&M product, left-hander Doug Rau.
Rau was drafted by the Dodgers in the first round of baseball’s secondary June draft in 1970 (the draft was structured differently back then; this version is no more), picked seventh overall behind, among others, Dave Kingman and Bucky Dent.
Rau was a rotation mainstay for Los Angeles for five seasons (1974-78), a run that included three World Series trips for the Dodgers. Rau topped out at 16 wins in 1976, posting a 2.57 ERA in 231 innings for a 131 ERA+.
In many ways, Rau was the left-handed Chad Billingsley. Both were first-round picks, both pitched in parts of eight seasons with the Dodgers before missing a season with injury — rotator cuff for Rau in 1980, Tommy John surgery for Billingsley in 2014 — then finishing out their career with a brief one-off comeback attempt with another team.
Rau and Billingsley each pitched 219 games for the Dodgers, 190 starts for Billingsley and 184 for Rau. Rau won 80 games with a 106 ERA+ with LA, Billingsley won 81 with a 110 ERA+. They also both shared the stigma of postseason failures with the Dodgers. Both pitched six postseason games, including three starts for the Dodgers, with Rau posting a 6.55 ERA and Billingsley at 6.88.
A postseason moment was perhaps Rau’s most memorable incident with the Dodgers. Down 1-0 with two runners in scoring position with nobody out after three straight hits in the second inning of Game 4 of the 1977 World Series, Tommy Lasorda visited Rau on the mound and got into a heated exchange, a classic Lasorda profanity-laced rant, before removing him for reliever Rick Rhoden.
Rau: “I feel good Tommy.”
Lasorda: “I don’t give a shit you feel good, there’s four motherf**king hits up there.”
Episode link (time: 47:10)