After all of that we’re right back where we started, with a pair of Cy Young-winning southpaws facing off to begin what is essentially now a best-of-three series. Clayton Kershaw got the better of Dallas Keuchel in Game 1, tossing seven innings of one-run ball at Dodger Stadium as Chris Taylor and Justin Turner provided the offense for Los Angeles in a 3-1 victory. Keuchel pitched well enough to win, but Kershaw was masterful, and now the Astros need to figure out a way to edit that script to avoid having to win back-to-back elimination games at Dodger Stadium.
It seems unlikely that Keuchel will be permitted to face Turner a third time tonight with a runner(s) on base, which is what ultimately doomed him and the Astros in Game 1, although given manager A.J. Hinch’s nearly non-existent trust in his bullpen at this point it’s hard to predict Houston’s pitching plans. For the Dodgers it’s clear, as always: Get six or seven good innings from Kershaw, turn things over to Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen, and hop on a flight back home with three wins in your bag. For the Astros, though, Hinch does not have the option to turn to Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton, or Brad Peacock in relief, and Ken Giles may have pitched himself out of high-leverage work until 2018. Chris Devenski may have to do some very heavy lifting tonight.
PECOTA odds of winning: 54% Dodgers, 46% Astros
Projected Starting Lineups
|Dodgers vs. Keuchel (L)||Astros vs. Kershaw (L)|
|Chris Taylor (R), CF||George Springer (R), CF|
|Corey Seager (L), SS||Alex Bregman (R), 3B|
|Justin Turner (R), DH||Jose Altuve (R), 2B|
|Enrique Hernandez (R), LF||Carlos Correa (R), SS|
|Cody Bellinger (L), 1B||Yulieski Gurriel (R), 1B|
|Logan Forsythe (R), 3B||Josh Reddick (L), RF|
|Yasiel Puig (R), RF||Evan Gattis (R), DH|
|Austin Barnes (R), C||Marwin Gonzalez (S), LF|
|Charlie Culberson (R), 2B||Brian McCann (L), C|
Evan Gattis sat out Game 1, but figures to be in there against Kershaw with the designated hitter spot back in the mix. That adds another power threat for Houston, as Gattis slugged .448 off lefties during the regular season, although he was actually more productive off righties this year and has fairly even splits for his whole career. On paper the Astros’ lineup is built to knock around left-handed pitching, and they certainly did that plenty throughout the regular season, but much like scissors Kershaw tends to beat paper.
On the flip side, with the DH spot in play against a tough left-hander the Dodgers may be wishing that they had one more solid right-handed bat to plug into the lineup, but barring a turn to Charlie Culberson the options are lefties Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier, Chase Utley, and (switch-hitter) Yasmani Grandal.
No reliever on either side threw more than 15 pitches in Game 4, so the bullpens should be fully rested. Giles’ status is uncertain for performance-related reasons, and the only “tandem starter” who figures to be available to Hinch is Collin McHugh. Even for Hinch, that seems like a stretch. Kenta Maeda may be off limits for the Dodgers after throwing 42 pitches in Game 3.
PECOTA saw Los Angeles as heavy favorites in Game 1, but with home-field advantage now flipped the Dodgers’ odds have dropped from 64 percent to 54 percent. Still favored, thanks to the Kershaw hammer, but Kershaw-Keuchel Version 2.0 does have some changes.