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Dodgers and Reds get together after bad weeks

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Both offenses have seen better days

Dodgers vs San Diego Padres in Los Angeles, CA.

The Dodgers and Reds have the two best wRC+ in the National League, own the top two NL batting averages, and rank third and first, respectively in runs scored per game. The Dodgers lead the NL in on-base percentage (.346), and the Reds lead in slugging percentage (.450).

These are two good offenses, but both are coming off putrid weeks. And they meet for three games beginning Monday night at Dodger Stadium.

Even a pair of solid offensive games Saturday and Sunday couldn’t save the Dodgers from a losing week, and even with those 12 runs over the last two games the club is averaging under three runs per game and hitting .174/.289/.298 over the last eight.

Cincinnati is hitting just .214/.295/.391 during their seven-game losing streak. One of those losses was an 11-run outburst with six home runs. In the other six games they hit four home runs and scored 18 total runs.

For the Dodgers, they will rely on the starting pitching that has carried them in the early going, overcoming several injuries to the offense and a shaky bullpen with mounting injuries of its own. The three starters in this series — Julio Urías, Walker Buehler, and Clayton Kershaw — all pitched seven innings in their last start. Dodgers starters lead MLB, averaging 6.2 innings per start.

Urías on Monday is on five days rest after striking out a career-high 11 in a career-long seven innings in his last start. But Buehler and Kershaw will be on four days rest, which we reflexively refer to as “regular rest,” though I’m not sure if that’s true anymore. The Dodgers this season have had seven starts on four days rest, which matches their total for the 60-game 2020 season.

Dodgers-Reds schedule

Date Time Pitchers TV
Date Time Pitchers TV
Mon, Apr 26 7:10 p.m. Urías (L) vs. Mahle SNLA/MLBN*
Tue, Apr 27 7:10 p.m. Buehler vs. Hoffman SNLA/MLBN*
Wed, Apr 28 1:10 p.m. Kershaw (L) vs. Gray SNLA
*MLB Network broadcasts subject to local blackouts

Last year was weird with a pandemic and expanded rosters, but the trend of giving extra rest has been prevalent for a few years. In 2018-19 combined, only 28 percent of Dodgers starts came on four days rest, and the last year in which four days rest was the team’s most common usage was 2016, with all of 57 starts that season.

The Reds series will get the Dodgers halfway through a stretch of 14 games in 14 days, and it’s likely the Dodgers will insert a spot starter at some point in the second week of that stretch.

“Something could potentially happen in Milwaukee, but I don’t know yet,” manager Dave Roberts said Sunday, referring to the upcoming four-game series against the Brewers this weekend.

The main candidate to either start or handle a large chunk of the innings in such a game, David Price, injured his hamstring on Sunday, and we’ll find out the severity of that injury today. With Tony Gonsolin still nursing a shoulder injury at Camelback Ranch, there aren’t many options for a true spot start should the Dodgers choose that route, especially if Mitch White is not yet stretched out and still being groomed as a reliever as he was at the end of spring training.

Which means the most likely course of action to give the rotation extra rest is a bullpen game, but the timing and availability of enough relievers for that will depend on usage in this series against the Reds.

As for Cincinnati, they will send Tyler Mahle, Jeff Hoffman, and Sonny Gray to the mound, part of a stretch that will likely see the Dodgers face eight consecutive right-handed starters through Sunday. Seems like a good time for Gavin Lux to return from the injured list, which is expected on Monday, and possibly for Edwin Ríos to break out of his 4-for-38 start to his season.