The Five Biggest Questions Heading into the Dodgers vs. Giants Division Series
Will playoff Corey Seager activate and other crucial queries
Hi friends. The day we’ve all been waiting for is finally here! Not only do we get four MLB playoff games on this fine Friday, we also get a Dodgers vs. Giants postseason matchup for the first time ever. I’m losing my mind!
Before I dive in to previewing this blessed event, I’d like to thank you for your continued support of me and of this newsletter. We started small two months ago and now we’ve grown to the point where our NL wild card game thread had 535 comments! (Only 417 were mine.) I’m hoping to build a community of thoughtful and considerate people who treat each other with respect online and so far you guys have exceeded my wildest expectations. Even though I’ve been doing these live chats during Dodger games only so far, I want to encourage fans of all teams to come and hang out and brag or whine about their local nine. I saw some Jays, Mets, and Yankees fans in the thread on Wednesday night and loved it. So tonight we are going to do it again starting at 6 pm PT/9 pm ET. Look out for an email from me with a live link.
As you guys know, I’ve been watching and writing about the Dodgers and Giants for months. Everything was leading up to today, although I was scared the Cardinals would rob us of our destiny as sports fans. Still, this is hard for me to write because I’m trying to narrow it down to five keys so you guys don’t have to sift through a War and Peace: NL West edition.
My Five Questions about the Dodgers and Cardinals helped me process feeling overwhelmed by playoff baseball while I sat in the top deck of Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night and chatted with you all. Justin Turner solved Adam Wainwright’s curveball, which was the difference in the game because it tied it at 1-1 and brought the crowd back into it. The Dodgers have an incredibly difficult time generating offense without Max Muncy. That being said, their 7-8-9 hitters did better than the 1-2-3 hitters. Cody Bellinger had a hit, two walks, two stolen bases, and scored the winning run. Chris Taylor hit the game winning walk-off dinger. The Dodgers won for the 12th straight time with Max Scherzer on the mound, even though he didn’t have it. Taylor (not Lars Nootbaar) was the hero.
So let’s do this again. Here are my five key questions heading into the Dodgers vs Giants divisional series:
Will Logan Webb be able to match Walker Buehler?
Logan Webb has a career 3.94 ERA. He’ll take the ball tonight in the first playoff game of his life. Walker Buehler is a Cy Young candidate with a 2.35 career ERA in 11 career playoff starts. On paper, you’ve got to give the edge to the Dodgers here. But I don’t know. I’d feel better about this if Buehler hadn’t gotten shelled for 6 earned runs the last time he faced the Giants a month ago. (He had only given up 6 earned runs in his previous five starts combined). Webb’s career numbers belie how good he’s been this year. His 2.72 FIP was third-best in MLB for pitchers who threw a minimum of 140 innings, trailing only Corbin Burnes and Zach Wheeler. Kevin Gausman and Anthony DeSclafani have gotten more national love this year, but Webb is the guy I would have started in a wild card game or in this spot, no question. The dude is good. Can he be good enough to match Buehler? He might be the only Giants pitcher to go twice in this series. San Francisco cannot afford for him to stink. Also, for a great read on Buehler, I highly recommend Jeff Passan’s latest:
Can Cody Bellinger put together competent at-bats like he did in the wild card game?
During that game I texted my friend Chris that Cody Bellinger was having a great game considering his struggles this year. Chris wrote back immediately that Bellinger was having a great game for *anyone.* He was right. Bellinger somehow overcame everything going wrong in his body and his brain on Wednesday night to walk twice, collect a hit, steal two bases, and score that winning run. (It was the kind of performance I was expecting from Trea Turner or Mookie Betts at the top of the lineup, but didn’t get).
With Muncy out with an elbow injury, the pressure on Bellinger to be good has basically been tripled. It’s not fair, but the Dodgers desperately need another left-handed bat to come through, especially because Webb, DeSclafani, and Gausman are all right-handed. If Bellinger stops trying to hit home runs and starts trying to spray line drives all over the field, his legs may carry the team to the World Series. Whatever his approach, he simply cannot walk up to the batter’s box as an automatic out in this series, because the Giants are too good to be given gifts. But if he turns in performances like he did Wednesday, the Dodgers will roll.
How many times will LaMonte Wade Jr. break the Dodgers’ backs?
I’ve been telling you for months that Wade Jr.’s destiny is to destroy the Dodgers season. Or, at least I’ve been thinking it. This dude doesn’t always hit home runs, but when he does they are the kind of late inning come-from-behind jacks that send opposing fans into therapy. When I googled Wade Jr. just now I was surprised he came from the Minnesota Twins. I’d assumed he was some kind of superhero that Giants’ fans conjured to destroy the Dodgers, like Bobby Thomson reincarnate.
I don’t know why Wade Jr. doesn’t start every game. I don’t know where he plays in the field. I just know that when one of these games is on the line, he’s going to hit a home run off Blaker Treinen or Kenley Jansen and I’m going to get a billion tweets from Dodger fans who want to die. Wade Jr. hits left-handed. Maybe Julio Urias can be brought in to close just to get him out?
Speaking of…how will the Dodgers use Julio Urias?
Remember when Julio Urias pitched three innings to close out the NL Championship Series last season, then three innings to close out the World Series a week later? Those moves worked out well for the Dodgers! It seems like they should try it again!
I don’t care what anyone says publicly over the next week about this not being a possibility. Urias is slated to start game 2 on Saturday. With Buehler going tonight in game 1, he would be on track to start game 5 on five days rest. Urias would be enter game 5 on regular rest. If this series goes 5 (and I think it will) the Dodgers might only throw Buehler, Treinen, Jansen, and Urias that day. Or they might skip Jansen altogether. Urias was a crucial weapon in relief during the 2020 postseason. If he can mow down the Giants this next week, San Francisco may not stand a chance, even in a short series.
Will playoff Corey Seager activate?
Fresh off his NLCS and World Series MVP awards last season, Seager went 0-for-3 with a walk on Wednesday in his first postseason game since winning a ring. He crushed the ball in this season’s final month, hitting .385 with nine home runs, a .463 on-base percentage, and a .712 slug. The Dodgers need him to pick up the slack in Muncy’s absence and Bellinger’s unreliability more than ever if they want to beat San Francisco. Even though the Dodgers’ lineup is filled with all-stars, if the Giants can solve Seager they will probably win this series. That’s how important I think he is to making this Dodger offense go. But if he hits like he did last October? Dodgers in 3.