Posted on October 5, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
After a truly wild game against the Rockies in the Wild Card Playoff, the Arizona Diamondbacks are moving on to the NLDS to face the Los Angeles Dodgers. As division rivals, these two know each other quite well, playing 19 games against each other during the regular season, with the Diamondbacks winning 11 of the 19 games. Of course, those games go out the window once the postseason starts.
The Real NLCS?
As the wild-card winner, the Diamondbacks have the misfortune of playing the team with the best record in the National League. However, there’s an argument that can be made that this is the real NLCS, with all due respect to the Cubs and Nationals. The Dodgers and Diamondbacks have the two best pitching staffs in the National League, placing first and second, respectively, in both starters ERA and bullpen ERA. To be fair, the Nationals and Cubs both rank ahead of both teams in most offensive categories. But if you believe that pitching wins in October, this could be the real NLCS.
There was never any doubt that the Dodgers were going to send Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 1. This was not Kershaw’s best season, especially after missing more than a month of action with a back injury. That being said, he’s definitely the pitcher the Dodgers want on the mound. With the time he missed, Kershaw only faced the Diamondbacks twice this season, but he shut down Arizona’s powerful line up on both occasions. Over 15.1 innings against the Diamondbacks, Kershaw allowed just one run on six hits with 17 strikeouts.
With both Zack Greinke and Robbie Ray used in the Wild Card Game, the Diamondbacks have been forced to go with Plan C in Game 1, which is Taijuan Walker. In his first season in Arizona, Walker had the breakout season many predicted, going 9-9 with a 3.49 ERA. Like many Diamondbacks, he’s lacking in postseason experience, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a more consistent starting pitcher in baseball this season, at least outside of his Game 1 counterpart. Walker faced the Dodgers three times this season. Two of those starts came in April, but when he pitched in Los Angeles in September, he allowed just one run over six innings.
The Diamondbacks are obvious underdogs in Game 1. But if there’s an X-factor that can help them get to Kershaw it may be catcher Chris Iannetta. Outside of J.D. Martinez, who is 3 for 8 with two extra-base hits, Iannetta is the only Arizona hitter with good career numbers against Kershaw. Iannetta also had one of his best offensive seasons this year, hitting .254 with 17 home runs and an OPS of .865. He may be Arizona’s best chance at doing damage against Kershaw.
If there’s one thing we’ve seen in this postseason so far, it’s that pitchers without postseason experience haven’t performed well. That gives Kershaw and the Dodgers a huge advantage. As great as Arizona’s bats looked in the Wild Card Game, they can cool off in a hurry when facing Kershaw. The Dodgers will take this game 7-4.