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NLDS Game 3: Max Scherzer finding his way, Dodgers facing a lefty

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Scherzer vs. Wood in Game 3 (6:37 p.m. PT, TBS)

MLB: Wildcard-St. Louis Cardinals at Los Angeles Dodgers Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

As the scene for the NLDS shifts to Los Angeles, expect aggressive managing from both the Dodgers and Giants with a two-day pitching plan in mind. Surrounded by off days, the two games at Dodger Stadium could feature the highest-leverage relievers used more robustly to finish off each game. But how Game 3 starts will go a long way in deciding who takes this series.

The Dodgers have to feel comfortable with the matchup on Monday night, with Max Scherzer facing old friend Alex Wood.

Los Angeles is 12-0 in Scherzer starts this year (and 14-0 if you count his two effective starts with the Nationals against the Dodgers, both won by LA), though the last three have required late offense to get the win. Scherzer was otherworldly in his first nine Dodgers starts, allowing six total runs, but the last three haven’t been that.

Max Scherzer as a Dodger

Dates Starts IP HR BB rate K rate ERA FIP
Dates Starts IP HR BB rate K rate ERA FIP
Aug. 1-Sep. 18 9 58 2 3.2% 36.6% 0.78 1.36
since Sep. 23 3 14⅔ 3 5.7% 20.0% 6.75 4.94

“We made this acquisition for him to be an ace, a stopper. When he takes the baseball you expect to win. He’s going to prevent runs,” manager Dave Roberts said over Zoom on Sunday’s off day. “The numbers you can always kind of debate, but the bottom line is that, and I know Max knows this, it’s the last three he hasn’t performed the way that he expects.”

Roberts was aggressive in pulling Scherzer in the wild card game, removing him with one out in the fifth inning with a pair of runners on and one out, facing the heart of the St. Louis lineup a third time. We also saw this last October with Clayton Kershaw, with Roberts pulling him when necessary after relying on the legend of Kershaw rather than what’s in front of him earlier in his managerial career.

If Scherzer hasn’t yet regained his command, expect Roberts to be aggressive early, especially with back-end relievers Kenley Jansen and Blake Treinen both working on four days rest. But if Scherzer is effective, getting him to pitch deep into Game 3 remains the ideal scenario for the Dodgers.

Facing a southpaw

Wood doesn’t have discernible splits this season, with right-handers batting .230/.307/.375 and lefties .258/.311/.363 against him. But there are two splits to consider in the batter-pitcher matchup.

Dodgers hitters struggled against left-handed pitchers earlier in the season, something that improved as the season wore on, especially against southpaw starters.

Through July 31, the Dodgers had a 95 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers, ranking 20th in the majors. But by the end of the year the Dodgers were above average, ending with a 104 wRC+ against southpaws, eighth in MLB.

Acquiring Trea Turner was a huge boon to the team in several ways, but especially so against lefties. On the season he hit .392/.437/.712, a 201 wRC+ against lefties, and with the Dodgers he’s at .365/.421/.808, a 220 wRC+.

Since the start of August, the Dodgers have a 123 wRC+ against southpaws. Only the Rays, Cardinals, and Blue Jays were better in MLB. Turner is not alone in punishing lefties over the final two months. We know Albert Pujols will start at first base on Monday, with Chris Taylor in centerfield, AJ Pollock in left, and Will Smith behind the plate. So here’s the eight expected Dodgers starters with their wRC+ against lefties over the last two months and for the season:

  • Mookie Betts 100 wRC+ last two months (132 wRC+ on the season)
  • Corey Seager 175 (147)
  • Trea Turner 201 (220)
  • Justin Turner 107 (120)
  • Will Smith 197 (93)
  • Albert Pujols 141 (146)
  • AJ Pollock 133 (131)
  • Chris Taylor 89 (141)

Fun with numbers

The Dodgers are 12-0 in Scherzer starts.

The Giants are 12-1 in Alex Wood starts following a San Francisco loss.

The Dodgers have won 16 straight games at Dodger Stadium. The last loss was August 29, to Antonio Senzatela and the Rockies.

In a best-of-five series tied at 1-1 all-time in MLB history, the winner of Game 3 has won 39 of 54 series, per ESPN Stats & Info.

NLDS Game 3 info

Teams: Dodgers vs. Giants

Series: Tied, 1-1

Location: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

Time: 6:37 p.m.

TV: TBS