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Starting pitching is driving the Dodgers and Brewers

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Four-game series in Milwaukee between division leaders starts Thursday night

Los Angeles Dodgers v San Diego Padres Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Starting pitching has guided both the Dodgers and Brewers to the top of their divisions, with both inserting a rest day for their respective rotations during the four-game series beginning Thursday evening at what is still Miller Park to me.

Strong rotations

Stat Dodgers Brewers
Stat Dodgers Brewers
ERA 2.69 (3rd) 2.70 (4th)
FIP 2.93 (3rd) 2.70 (2nd)
K rate 29.9% (4th) 30.2% (3rd)
K-BB rate 25.9% (1st) 22.6% (3rd)
IP 6.16 (1st) 5.14 (15th)
fWAR 4.1 (1st) 3.7 (2nd)
MLB ranks Sources: FanGraphs & Baseball-Reference

Los Angeles and Milwaukee are 1-2 in the majors in FanGraphs WAR from starting pitching this season, and the No. 3 team is San Francisco, which goes a long way in explaining why the Giants and Dodgers are currently tied atop the NL West. The Brewers and Dodgers are 2-3 in FIP, 3-4 in ERA and strikeout rate, and first and third in K-BB%.

The Dodgers are using a bullpen game Friday, for what will be day nine of a 14-day stretch of games, to give their starters an extra day of rest. This is where the main difference between the two rotations is clear, with Dodgers starters averaging 6.16 innings per game — most in the majors — while the Brewers are at 5.14 innings.

Clayton Kershaw pitched seven scoreless innings on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, and Thursday in Milwaukee they send to the mound Trevor Bauer, who is averaging 6.4 innings and has lasted at least six innings in every start, the team’s best two pitchers suited to rest the bullpen before heavy usage coming Friday.

Bauer last season in the regionalized schedule faced the Brewers in three of his 11 starts, striking out 12 twice. He had a 2.66 ERA in those starts, with 32 strikeouts and four walks in 20⅓ innings.

Milwaukee’s rotation gets an extra day thanks to the decision to insert Eric Lauer for Thursday’s series opener. Manager Craig Counsell told reporters after Wednesday’s game that Lauer would be called up to start Thursday, and that yesterday’s starter Zack Godley is getting placed on the injured list, per Ryan Herrera at MLB.com.

It’s a wise move for the Brewers, considering Lauer was the Padres’ version of Ty Blach against the Dodgers in 2018-19. In seven starts against the Dodgers, the lefty Lauer has a 2.11 ERA with 43 strikeouts in 42⅔ innings, plus a 5-0 record.

Lauer in his other 50 major league games, including 47 starts, is 9-19 with a 5.24 ERA.

Eric Lauer, Dodgers killer

Split IP ERA BB rate K rate Record Team record in starts
Split IP ERA BB rate K rate Record Team record in starts
vs. Dodgers 42⅔ 2.11 6.9% 24.7% 5-0 6-1
vs. Other teams 230 5.24 9.0% 19.9% 9-19 18-29

The Brewers got Lauer along with shortstop Luis Urias from the Padres after the 2019 season for Trent Grisham and Zach Davies. Lauer hasn’t yet pitched in the majors in 2021, and last year with Milwaukee allowed 16 runs and 17 hits in 11 innings over four games, with 12 strikeouts and nine walked. In one of his two starts — last August 7 — Lauer allowed six runs in three innings, taking the loss against the Reds. Bauer got the win.

Believe it or not, Bauer-Lauer isn’t the first time a Dodgers game has featured rhyming last names this season. April 14 gave us Dustin May vs. Jon Gray.

Game info

Teams: Dodgers at Brewers

Location: whatever is the current name of Miller Park

Time: 4:40 p.m. PT

TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network (out of market)