LOS ANGELES DODGERS
at CINCINNATI REDS
First pitch: Sunday, 8:05 p.m. ET
The Dodgers and Reds wrap up a three-game series that could be a playoff preview on Sunday night with a stellar pitching matchup.
Clayton Kershaw (14-8, 1.89 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) continues his push for a Cy Young against a Reds team he dominated the last time he saw them. On July 26, he went eight innings, giving up just one run on six hits in a Dodgers 2-1 victory in Los Angeles. Homer Bailey (10-10, 3.42 ERA, 1.11 WHIP) has been on top of his game in his past two starts both against the mighty Cardinals, tossing 14.1 shutout innings and allowing jut seven hits while fanning 15. Both Kershaw (201 K's, 3rd) and Bailey (181 K's, 10th) rank among the top-10 in baseball in strikeouts entering the weekend. The two teams squared off from July 25-28 in Los Angeles, where the Dodgers won the final three games of the four-game tilt. Two stars might not be in their respective lineups Sunday as L.A. rookie sensation OF Yasiel Puig has been out with a knee injury and Reds All-Star 2B Brandon Phillips is dealing with a quad injury. After setting a franchise record with 15 straight road victories earlier in the season, the Dodgers have continued their strong play away from home. At 40-28 (.588), L.A. has the best road record in all of baseball entering Friday. This sets up a great matchup as the Reds have been outstanding at home, with a record of 44-25 (.638, 4th in MLB) to start the weekend.
There is no denying that Kershaw has been as good as any pitcher in baseball this season. Through Thursday's action, he currently leads the majors in innings pitched (209), ERA (1.89) and WHIP (0.92). Teaming up with Zack Greinke, the Dodgers have as good of a one-two punch in all of baseball. In his career, Kershaw is 2-1 with a 2.81 ERA in seven starts against the Reds. Cincy really hopes Phillips can play, as he has enjoyed great success against Kershaw, going 8-for-19 (.421 BA). Of those eight hits, seven of them have been singles though. Another Reds' All-Star infielder, 1B Joey Votto, has hit two home runs against Kershaw, but is only 5-for-20 with 11 K's and three walks over 23 career matchups. If there has been a weakness on the Dodgers this season, it is an inconsistent bullpen. L.A. relievers carry a middling 3.51 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, and enter this series with 10 blown saves in 31 chances on the road (68% success rate). With the workhorse Kershaw on the mound (7.2 IP per start), the bullpen may not play a huge role in the game.
Bailey's recent success has actually lasted seven starts, where he's 5-0 (team is 6-1) while striking out 43 batters in 48.1 innings. Like Kershaw, he is one of the best strikeout pitchers in all of baseball. In his lone start against the Dodgers this season, he went seven innings, giving up two runs in a Reds 2-1 loss on July 26. This puts his career numbers versus L.A. at a pedestrian 3-3 with a 4.23 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. Bailey has been very good recently, but no player has owned him in his career like Dodgers 1B Adrian Gonzalez, who is 9-for-18 with an incredible five homers and two doubles, leading to a 1.444 slugging percentage. OF Andre Ethier enters this series with a .409 BA and 2 HR in his past seven games, but he has been absolutely dreadful against Bailey, going 0-for-15 with four strikeouts. The Reds bullpen has a decent 3.49 ERA and 1.20 WHIP and includes one of baseball's most dominating closers in Aroldis Chapman, who ranks 10th in baseball with 34 saves. If Bailey (6.6 IP per start) is able to get the ball to Chapman in the ninth inning, then the Reds will have an excellent chance to win the game.