For their latest playoff appearance, the Los Angeles Dodgers prepped with one of the best regular seasons in baseball history, sending them racing downhill into a meeting with a familiar foe.
The Dodgers’ 10th playoff appearance in 10 seasons begins Tuesday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series when they play host to the San Diego Padres.
In an impressive showing during the NL wild-card round, the Padres took down the 101-win New York Mets.
“There’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “It’s going to be exciting, not only for players and fans, it’s going to be a very intense series.”
The Dodgers set a franchise record for regular-season victories (111) and are just the seventh club in baseball history to win as many as 110 games. Of the previous six clubs to do it, five advanced to the World Series and three won a title.
The most recent to do so were the 2001 Seattle Mariners, who won 116 games but fell to the New York Yankees in the American League Championship Series.
The Dodgers are keenly aware that anything less than a deep playoff run will be considered a disappointment after advancing to an NLCS in five of the previous six seasons and the World Series in three of the last five. The club also led all of baseball in OPS (.775) and runs scored (847), as well as in ERA (2.80).
After debating the merits of a pair of left-handers as his Game 1 starter — Julio Urias or Clayton Kershaw — Roberts announced Monday that Urias (17-7, 2.16 ERA) will take the series opener.
“I think for us you could essentially flip a coin,” Roberts said. “They’re both aces in our eyes. I just think that Julio has been fantastic for us all year. Kind of just making that decision to give him that opportunity, we all felt good about it. And Clayton feels good about starting Game 2.”
Urias dominated the Padres in four starts this season, going 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA over 24 innings. Three of those starts came in September, when Urias went 2-0 with a 1.42 ERA. In 15 career appearances (10 starts) against San Diego, Urias is 6-1 with a 2.19 ERA (61 2/3 innings).
The Padres won just five of the 19 regular-season games played against the Dodgers and just three of the 12 that came after they added Juan Soto, Josh Bell and Josh Hader at the trade deadline.
The Padres were just 32-27 since the start of August, yet they still earned the NL’s second wild card and dispatched the Mets by allowing one combined run in their two wild-card round victories behind Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove.
But the Padres will have to go with their freshest arm in the NLDS opener, giving Mike Clevinger (7-7, 4.33) the nod. The right-hander was 0-2 with a 9.69 ERA in three starts (13 innings) against Los Angeles this season, his only career appearances against the Dodgers.
After going 4-for-8 in the wild-card series with two home runs, two walks, three RBIs and five runs, the left-handed hitting Trent Grisham will continue to start games, according to Padres manager Bob Melvin, even against the Dodgers’ two lefty starters to open the NLDS.
“He’s had a history of hitting lefties and in some years (he has been) better,” Melvin said. “It’s just all about how the quality of his at-bats are and what he means to us. He certainly had a great (wild-card) series both at the plate and in the field.”
It will be just the second postseason matchup all-time between the teams after the Dodgers earned a 3-0 sweep in the 2020 NLDS.
The Dodgers are set to have outfielder Chris Taylor (neck strain) on the NLDS roster, but Roberts was noncommittal about right-hander Craig Kimbrel (3.75 ERA), who struggled for much of the second half and lost his closer role late in the season.
–Field Level Media