After a truly wild Wild Card game, the Arizona Diamondbacks are facing the National League “Goliath” in the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Arizona Diamondbacks will start the NLDS on the road on Friday as they send Taijuan Walker to the mound against Clayton Kershaw.
Throughout the 2017 season, the Diamondbacks held out for an 11-8 record over the Dodgers after sweeping them in back-to-back series.
Some of the team’s highest scoring games came against the Dodgers with multiple games having double-digit runs.
The Dodgers may have five consecutive National League West titles, but the if they have an Achilles heel, it’s the Arizona Diamondbacks.
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In a best-of-five series, the rivalry will be alive and well between these two teams.
Pitching Matchup: Kershaw vs. Walker
Clayton Kershaw is 4-7 in the postseason with a 4.55 ERA. Despite his usual dominance on the mound, the postseason hardly sees his best performance.
Furthermore, his ERA in the NLDS is 4.01 with a 3-3 record, not including the save he got against the Washington Nationals in 2016.
Kershaw is getting the ball for Game 1 as pretty much anyone could have anticipated, but he is slated for Game 5 if the series should make it that far.
Taijuan Walker, on the other hand, doesn’t have postseason experience. But, in three games against the Dodgers in 2017, Walker is 2-0.
He owns a 3.24 ERA against the Dodgers this year, but that includes 17 strikeouts and five walks.
Since Robbie Ray pitched in the Wild Card game, Walker was selected for Game 1, most likely because he has held the Dodgers to the lowest batting average (.238) among the Diamondbacks available starters.
Batting Matchups: Deep and Dangerous
Both of these teams have the ability to go yard at any point in the lineup. The Dodgers (221) just barely edged the Diamondbacks (220) for homeruns as a team with one more.
However, the Diamondbacks edged the Dodgers in doubles with 314 to lead the National League. The Dodgers had 312.
But, the Diamondbacks also led the NL with 39 triples and added four more in the Wild Card game. The Dodgers were last in the NL with only 20 triples this season.
Gregor Blanco and Paul Goldschmidt are the only Diamondbacks hitters with significant experience against Clayton Kershaw, having 28 and 42 at-bats respectively. Unforutnately, neither one of them have solid offensive performances against the Dodgers ace.
But, in fewer at-bats, Chris Iannetta (8) and J.D. Martinez (4) are batting .375 and .500, respectively.
The Dodgers have earned quite a few hits against Walker, but no one has over 10 at-bats against him in three games.
Yasmani Grandal leads the team with eight at-bats where he’s earned a .375 batting average.
Despite Kershaw being known for his dominance, the bullpen might have significant contributions to this game and the rest of the series.
With that being said, the Dodgers made the choice to leave Pedro Baez on the roster for the NLDS. Baez has a 6.52 ERA in the postseason and did not end the season well with a slump spanning August and September.
In opposition, Archie Bradley has had a career year – his first out of the bullpen.
He gave up back-to-back home runs in the Wild Card game, but they came after he hit a two-run triple to extend the team’s lead. There’s no doubt that fatigue factored into those home runs and should he see action in game one, he will be fired up.
Should the game remain close in the ninth inning, both teams have their faith in their respective closers. The Dodgers probably have a little (or a lot) more faith in Kenley Jansen, than the Diamondbacks have in Rodney, but nonetheless he is the closer.
If this game depends on the bullpen, it could be a pitching duel for the ages.
Game 1 of the NLDS has first pitch scheduled for 7:30 p.m. PST.
"Five (bold) predictions for the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS"
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