Game 1 of Dodgers-Diamondbacks was depressing for a lot of reasons. It stinks to see an all-time great trying to compete with a shoulder full of cottage cheese and be as ineffective as he’s ever been. It stinks to wait for a baseball game for three days and realize after six minutes that it won’t be a very compelling one to watch. And it really stinks when you can smell the narrative bubbling up a few pitches into the game.
Of course, that’s from the perspective of a baseball fan and neutral observer. Game 1 was really fun if you’re a Diamondbacks fan and/or Dodger despiser. Here’s a list of regular-season games that Clayton Kershaw has pitched against the Diamondbacks. In 30 of those 44 games, Kershaw allowed two runs or less. In more than half, he allowed one run or less. This has been going on since 2008. In every one of those games, there was a Diamondbacks fan who was thinking, “He’s gotta hang a breaking ball one of these times, right?”
Yes. Yes, he does. Now the Diamondbacks have a chance to go home with a commanding 2-0 lead, and the Dodgers will have to win three out of four against a team that’s feeling mighty confident.
Start time: 9:07 p.m. ET on TBS
Game 2 pitching matchup
Diamondbacks: RHP Zac Gallen
2023 stats: 17-9, 3.47 ERA, 210 innings, 220 strikeouts, 1.12 WHIP
Before the first pitch of a postseason series: Man, I sure wish we had our ace lined up for Game 1.
After winning Game 1: Holy cats, did that work out well.
Nothing against Merrill Kelly, a fine pitcher who is worthy of a co-ace label, but Gallen is clearly the Diamondbacks’ ace and the starter they’d clone four times if they had the technology.
A list of Diamondbacks starters with seasons worth five WAR or more: Gallen, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling. That’s the company he’s been keeping for the last couple of years, and now he’s starting in a game that can put the Diamondbacks in a dominating position for the rest of the NLDS.
Dodgers: RHP Bobby Miller
2023 stats: 11-4, 3.76 ERA, 124 1/3 innings, 119 strikeouts, 1.10 WHIP
The good news is that Bobby Miller is the Dodgers’ best starting pitcher right now.
The bad news is that Bobby Miller is the Dodgers’ best starting pitcher right now.
It’s not bad news because of anything Miller’s doing. No, he’s been fantastic. He’s arrived. He’s yet another example of the Dodgers stealing a top-of-the-first-round talent in the back of the first round. They can’t keep getting away with this.
No, it’s bad news because it’s so incredibly obvious that Miller is the Dodgers’ best starter right now, and it shouldn’t be. The Dodgers opened the season with a projected rotation of Kershaw, Julio Urías, Noah Syndergaard, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin. For Miller to be the best starter out of that bunch, things would have had to go really, really right for Miller, or really, really wrong for the Dodgers.
Or both? It’s probably both. The good news is that Miller is the pitcher they’d choose to match up against Gallen right now. The bad news is that they don’t have another two or three pitchers like him, which is what they were expecting/hoping/praying for before the season.
Game 2 X-factor
Max Muncy vs. Zac Gallen
Mookie Betts is an alien who hits Gallen well. Will Smith has been even better in a medium sample. Freddie Freeman hasn’t seen him enough to give us an indication one way or another.
Muncy struggles against Gallen, though, so if he can give the Dodgers anything — an eight-pitch walk, a double down the line, or, perhaps, a 450-foot home run that explodes when it lands — it would be a mighty big help.
“These are the constructs, the structure of the playoff format. And so for us to sit here and complain about five off days, it’s just not going to serve much purpose.
“But our guys are conditioned to play every day. And so when you have a respite like that, it’s different. So as preparation, as a staff, you try to simulate as much as you can …
“But there’s no — you just can’t simulate real postseason baseball. So, no excuse. We still have to go out there, and like I said before, these are the constructs. We’ve got to play within them. And we’ve got to regroup on Monday and be ready to go.”
— Dave Roberts on extended breaks for top seeds in the new postseason format.
(Top photo of Muncy: Harry How / Getty Images)