The Key To A Dodger Miracle: Two Lefty Starters Lined Up

October 17, 2013 at 10:29 am | Posted in 2013 NLCS, Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-jin Ryu | Leave a comment

kershaw_all-star_2013-07-16As the NLCS takes a travel day, the odds are still stacked against the Dodgers. They have to win each of the next two games, while the Cardinals need only win one, and they need to do it in St. Louis, where they dropped each of the first two games. It’s far from impossible that a team this good can manage to win two road games in a row, but it’s also going to be extremely difficult, especially with how limited Hanley Ramirez has been and the incredibly up-and-down nature of the offense as a whole, particularly with Michael Wacha & Adam Wainwright looming.

But if there is one thing that Dodger fans can hang their hats on, it’s this: Clayton Kershaw in Game 6, Hyun-jin Ryu in Game 7. That’s not just because it’s “the best pitcher on the planet and also a very good pitcher,” but also because if the Cardinals want to advance to the World Series, they’re going to be staring at two lefty starters in a row to do it — and we know that’s their primary weakness.

For example, Viva el Birdos on what lefties are doing to St. Louis first baseman Matt Adams:

Adams has gotten badly exposed against the Dodgers’ pitching, and their left-handers in particular. Adams had a strong platoon split in an admittedly not huge sample size in MLB: he has a 61 wRC+ for his MLB career against lefties, but hits right-handers for a 138 wRC+. Even taking the sample size into consideration, it seems likely that Matt Adams poses a serious liability against lefties. With Allen Craig out with a serious injury, the Cardinals don’t have a lot of choice about what they do at first base. The current plan seems to involve burying Adams at 6th or 7th in the order and crossing our collective fingers.

They go so far as to suggest perhaps starting David Freese at first (a position he has exactly one career start in) to save Adams for big pinch-hitting spots against righty relievers, though that seems unlikely to happen. (It’s also a good reminder that for all the injury woes the Dodgers have had, losing Craig — along with earlier injuries to Jaime Garcia, Rafael Furcal, & Chris Carpenter — has been a huge blow to St. Louis.)

It’s not just limited to Adams’ 2-for-14 against lefties in the playoffs, either. Matt Holliday is 2-for-12. Matt Carpenter is 2-for-13, with a triple. Yadier Molina is 1-for-9 with a walk. Jon Jay is 2-for-9. It can’t be ignored that most of those plate appearances came against guys like Kershaw, Ryu, and Pittsburgh lefties Francisco Liriano, Justin Wilson, & Tony Watson in the first round, because those are all extremely quality pitchers, but St. Louis troubles against lefties have been a season-long concern. And, obviously, it’s not like the Dodgers don’t have plenty of offensive questions themselves.

But if the Dodgers are going to make a miraculous comeback, it’s going to start with pitching, especially if Zack Greinke really is available to back up Ryu in relief in Game 7. Having two lefty starters lined up, especially with how fantastic Ryu looked in Game 3, is just about the best possible position to be in to take advantage of St. Louis weaknesses.

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