Monday’s off day was a much needed moment to rest for the Dodgers after a frustrating homestand that saw them lose 4 of 7, falling back slightly in the NL West standings to now trail the Giants by 2 games. The Dodgers did manage to take 2 of 3 from Colorado, doing just enough to eke out close wins on Saturday and Sunday despite playing with a roster that more resembles what you’d expect to see in week 2 of Spring Training at Camelback Ranch.
The week ahead is consequential in a number of ways for the Dodgers. The team is expected to be at least somewhat active ahead of Friday’s trade deadline and has been connected by experts to names like Craig Kimbrel, Max Scherzer, Tyler Anderson, and others. With Trevor Bauer increasingly less likely to ever pitch for the Dodgers again (especially if the clubhouse has a say in the matter) and Clayton Kershaw shelved for an uncertain amount of time, it would stand to reason that pitching is a clear need, both in the rotation and the bullpen. Given the injuries all over the roster that have necessitated at-bats from players like Sheldon Neuse and Luke Raley as well, adding a bat likely wouldn’t be a terrible idea for the Dodgers either in the most tightly contested NL West race we’ve seen in years.
The deadline, of course, is just one of several storylines this week for the Dodgers. Question marks remain around the return of several players; while the Dodgers can be certain Max Muncy will rejoin the team in San Francisco after the birth of his daughter, multiple other important pieces are still in limbo as we wait and see who they do and don’t have available as this crucial series begins. Like last week’s 4 game battle with the Giants, nothing about the next three days is “make or break” for the Dodgers’ season or divisional championship chances – still, the effects of even an umpire’s inability to know what a swing looks like start to feel heavier as we get closer to October and the race remains tight.
Tuesday, July 27, 6:45 pm PT
Julio Urias (12-3, 3.63 ERA) vs Logan Webb (4-3, 3.54 ERA)
If this matchup feels familiar, it’s because we just watched it play out six days ago at Dodger Stadium. I wrote heading into the series about Urias’ troubles with San Francisco this season – he entered that start with a 6.55 ERA against them this season, but quickly squashed that narrative with a superb performance on Wednesday night. Urias completed 7 full innings, allowing only 4 baserunners and a single run (a first inning home run by Mike Yastrzemski). It was an efficient outing from Julio in a spot the Dodgers’ really needed one and left them in a position to win the game heading into the 8th and 9th.
Logan Webb battled through 5 innings for the Giants, allowing 2 runs over 5 innings before being removed with 75 pitches thrown. It would seem likely that Webb will be allowed to pitch a little deeper into the game tonight as he continues to build his stamina back up, making the Dodgers’ ability to work counts even more essential to knocking him out early and taxing the Giants’ relief corps. Webb has pitched well above expectations all season, especially at home where he’s 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA.
Unfortunately for LA, Kenley Jansen failed to get the job done in this matchup last Wednesday. After entering the game with a 2-1 lead, he immediately allowed a single to Buster Posey and a home run to Wilmer Flores, ultimately part of a 3-run 9th inning that would prove decisive. He’d blown three consecutive saves over the course of a week before finally converting against Colorado on Saturday – the Dodgers will certainly need their closer to be available and effective if they’re hoping to fare better this week against the Giants.
Wednesday, July 28, 6:45 pm PT
Walker Buehler (10-1, 2.31 ERA) vs Anthony DeSclafani (10-4, 2.87 ERA)
Wednesday night’s matchup between double digit winners is another rematch from just last week, a game the Giants won 5-3 after first base umpire Ed Hickox handed them the tying run on a blatantly incorrect “no swing” call in the 9th inning. Regardless of Hickox’s ineptitude, the loss followed a number of Dodgers’ miscues coupled with poor managerial decision making on the parts of Dave Roberts and Bob Geren.
Kenley Jansen had already thrown 27 pitches on Tuesday night in the Dodgers’ 4-2 loss, and it is no secret that he’s less effective when asked to pitch on back-to-back days. Jansen’s ERA when pitching on back-to-back days is 5.28 since 2019, strikingly problematic when compared to his 2.43 ERA over that same span with a day of rest. And yet still, even after the “walk” that scored the tying run for San Francisco and 57 pitches of work over 24 hours, acting manager Bob Geren decided to let him stay in the game to face Lamonte Wade Jr., who unsurprisingly singled in the 2 decisive runs.
Similar to Tuesday’s Urias-Webb tilt, the best the Dodgers can likely hope for is a repeat of what this pitching matchup produced a week earlier – an opportunity heading into the late innings to close out a win with the lead in hand. Given Walker Buehler’s big game track record and domination of the Giants this season, I’m hopeful the Dodgers will have another shot to make it right Wednesday night.
Thursday, July 29, 12:45 pm ET
David Price (4-0, 3.35 ERA) vs Johnny Cueto (6-5, 4.09 ERA)
Thursday afternoon will be a matinee at Oracle Park before the Dodgers fly to Phoenix, and also presents us with our first new pitching matchup between the Dodgers and Giants as they finish out their second series in an 11-day span.
The Dodgers will be staring down the barrel at a very familiar foe in Johnny Cueto, a pitcher they’ve faced 23 times since his debut as a Cincinnati Red in 2008. He’s 8-9 with a 3.92 ERA over those appearances, and 6-4 with a 4.55 ERA against the Dodgers since joining San Francisco in 2016. Cueto hasn’t faced the Dodgers this season with San Francisco usually moving things around to ensure Gausman and DeSclafani highlight the rivalry series pitching matchups, and it makes sense given Cueto’s 10 runs allowed over his last 9.2 innings against Los Angeles last season.
Johnny Cueto has also struggled so far in July, going 0-2 with a 5.57 ERA despite 2 of his 4 starts coming against the Diamondbacks and Pirates. A righty like Cueto in his current form would seem a favorable matchup for the Dodgers if they’re remotely healthy, although it remains to be seen what their lineup will look like come Thursday afternoon.
David Price will get the ball for the Dodgers, looking to continue his solid July as he adjusts back into life in the starting rotation. He threw 74 pitches over 5.2 innings his last time out, running out of gas in the 6th and ultimately being charged with 3 earned runs after Phil Bickford allowed an inherited runner to score. Price mostly kept the Rockies at bay, allowing only 4 hits – unfortunately for him, 2 of those were solo home runs by Trevor Story and Elias Diaz that contributed to making an encouraging outing look rather pedestrian when reading the box score. Still, Price left the Dodgers in position to win for the third consecutive night before another meltdown led to a 9-6 loss on Friday night.
It’s hard to look at the current state of the Dodgers without feeling that they’ve been uncommonly unlucky. They have the best run differential in the game despite injuries causing missed time for 3 former MVPs, 2 former Cy Young award winners, and many other impact pieces. They’ve also gone 1-9 in extra inning games, a category where you’d expect their results to regress in a positive direction as the season goes on. Still, at only 2 games behind San Francisco with plenty of time to work with, they control their own destiny over these final 7 or 8 weeks of regular season action. Between the Trade Deadline, oncoming injury updates, and a massive series in San Francisco, much of the outlook heading into the remainder of the regular season will be determined in the coming days.