The Dodgers are back in the playoffs after winning the NL West for the the fourth consecutive season. Despite having placed 28 different players on the disabled list during the regular season (as of Sept. 29), the most in MLB history, Los Angeles seems rested and primed reach the NL Championship Series after being knocked out in the NLDS in back-to-back seasons.
Standing in their way are the NL East champions Nationals, who are limping into the postseason with a number of injuries to their All-Stars. Washington will be without ace Stephen Strasburg (flexor mass strain) and catcher Wilson Ramos (torn ACL) but fellow All-Stars Bryce Harper and Daniel Murphy played sparingly the final two weeks of the regular season.
Players to watchClayton Kershaw has registered a remarkable 1.29 ERA with 27 strikeouts in 29 innings (five starts) since returning from a herniated disc on Sept. 9. While the three-time Cy Young Award winner has been a superhero in the regular season, Kershaw has run into some postseason woes, having won just twice in 13 playoff appearances. Over the last four postseason games stared, Kershaw owns a 5.13 ERA.
Stars in the making Corey Seager and Trea Turner have been catalysts for their clubs this season. Seager, the favorite for NL Rookie of the Year is batting 308/.365/.512 with 26 homers and 72 RBIs for the Dodgers. Turner, a threat on the basepaths for the Nationals, batted .342 with 13 homers and 33 stolen bases. He is the first rookie in history to bat at least .340 with 10 or more homers and 20-plus stolen bases.
Key statsThe Dodgers rank last in batting average (.213) against left-handed pitching, making Gonzalez's start all that more interesting. The southpaw owns a 1.69 ERA in five career starts against the Dodgers.
The Dodgers could start three southpaws in Kershaw, Hill and Kazmir but have to be cautious against a Nationals lineup that owns the best slugging percentage (.455) against lefties among playoff teams.
The Dodgers and Nationals are 1-2 in MLB in ERA among relievers and in strikeouts from their pitching staff. Maeda led the way for the Dodgers while Scherzer became the first NL pitcher since Sandy Koufax in 1965 to lead league in wins (20), strikeouts (284), WHIP (0.968), and innings pitched (228 1/3). Despite the gaudy numbers, Scherzer also allowed 31 homers this season, most in NL.
In addition to strikeouts, Dodgers pitchers rank among the major league leaders in ERA (3.70, 5th), opponents’ batting average (233, 2nd), WHIP (1.19, 2nd) and shutouts (15, T-1st).