Well, the 2020 MLB Playoffs are upon us. As baseball finally moves into it’s Bubble phase, 16 teams are squaring off to determine this year’s World Series champion. While it’s hard to think that there won’t be an asterisk next to the 2020 title, a champion will be crowned.
The MLB is a fickle beast. Star-driven and tank-friendly, teams in the dumpster one year can be the king of the mountain the next. With that, stakes are high for almost every team as they make their playoff run, with sought-after stars often heading for greener pastures if they feel their squad can’t get over the hump.
We’re looking at each MLB playoff series and diving into what’s at stake for each team, how they stack up, and the keys to victory for each squad.
So, let’s check-in ahead of the Wild Card series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the San Diego Padres.
The last time the Padres made the postseason was 2006 when Bruce Bochy was their manager and Mike Cameron their best player. Now they’re in second place in the West, and they’re only going to get stronger down the line.
In the regular season, the Dodgers took 6 of the 10 meetings between the two clubs. And in the postseason, recent history also paints a picture where the Dodgers experience may play a huge role in this series.
These two teams have always had beef, with both of them residing in the Golden State and both playing in the NL West. However, there’s inter-sport beef now, considering how the Chargers up and left San Diego for the bright lights of Los Angeles.
The Dodgers have now made the postseason in the last 8 seasons. In their 7 prior trips to October, they advanced to the NLCS four times. This is a Dodgers team with playoff experience; this team knows how to go deep.
However, much like Billy Beane in Oakland, the Los Angeles Dodgers are still trying to win the last game of the season. After back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018, the Dodgers failed to reach the NLCS, losing to the Washington Nationals in five games.
Fun Fact: Since 2016, the Dodgers have been eliminated from the postseason by the team who would eventually win the World Series. So if the Padres can pull off the upset, everyone needs to know their ring size.
Padres Keys to Victory: Find Footing on the Mound, Keep Mashing
The Padres got kicked in the teeth to open their first postseason appearance in almost 15 years, as the St. Louis Cardinals took Game 1 of their three-game series. Chris Paddack, who probably wished 2020 went a little bit better than it did, was rudely greeted by the Cardinals, who scored four runs in the first inning. The Padres would never recover that lead, and would lose, 7-4.
In the pivotal Game 2, as their backs were against the wall, the Padres sent Zack Davies to the mound. Davies has been solid for the Dads this season, but was touched up by the Cardinals in the first two innings before being lifted after 55 pitches. With the bullpen scrambling to piece together the remaining seven innings, and the score sitting at 6-2, the Padres finally got hot. How? The same way they always do. I mean, they didn’t earn the nickname SLAM DIEGO for nothing.
The Padres hit 5 of their 6 Wild Card home runs in the 6th inning onward of Game 2, evening the series 1-1. Big swings are going to be the name of the game in this series for the Dads. Capitalizing with runners on both early and often is how you can get to these Dodger arms.
The Padres rotation is their achilles heel right now, as Dinelson Lamet is more than likely out for the NLDS, and midseason acquisition Mike Clevinger is questionable. That leaves a lot of the workload to Davies and Paddack, who have had their issues, and potentially gives Garrett Richards and Adrián Morejón a start depending on how far this series goes.
The Padres have to get their starters back in midseason form, whether it’s 2020 for Davies or 2019 for Paddack. Getting yourself into a 2-0 hole against the Dodgers isn’t the way you win this series.
Dodgers Keys to Victory: Play Your Game, Don’t Put Pressure on Kershaw
The Dodgers beat the Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card round. That’s as close to a first-round bye as you can get in these playoffs. However, this series almost went the full 3-games. Okay, maybe that’s giving a lot of credit to the Brewers, but that series should have been a blowout, and the Brewers hung with LA.
First off, the Dodgers didn’t hit that great. Sure, Mookie Betts was as advertised from the jump with two doubles and an RBI in Game 1. But the Brewers remained within one run until the 7th, when Corey Seager‘s solo shot gave the Dodgers some insurance.
Game 2, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, the Dodger bats were held to just one hit over the first four innings. Brandon Woodruff was pitching great and the Dodgers just couldn’t get to him. That’s gotta change. The Dodger bats have to wake up. Plain and simple.
The other important piece in this series, is Playoff Kershaw.
Clayton Kershaw has the lowest career numbers for home runs per 9 innings (HR/9) of any active pitcher in the major leagues with 0.7. In the postseason, that number doubles. In fact, his numbers get a lot worse when the calendar turns to October.
- Record – Regular Season: 169-74, Postseason: 9-11
- Win Percentage – Regular Season: .695 , Postseason: .450
- ERA – Regular Season: 2.44, Postseason: 4.33
- WHIP – Regular Season: 1.008, Postseason: 1.110
- Hits Per 9 – Regular Season: 6.8, Postseason: 7.4
- Home Runs Per 9 – Regular Season: 0.7, Postseason: 1.4
But we all knew that, we’ve seen it happen.
If you’re thinking of a Kershaw implosion, you’re more than likely thinking of a postseason home run he gave up. Kershaw has a problem with the longball, and should this series go the distance, he’ll get two starts against a power swinging team.
In order for the Padres to advance to the NLCS they’ll need to beat Clayton Kershaw at least once. In their only meeting of the shortened 2020 season, the Dads touched up the Dodger Ace for three earned runs, with Trent Grisham sending one over the wall.
It’s still Clayton Kershaw, who is still a first ballot Hall of Famer, but history isn’t on his side, and the Dodgers can’t count on his outings becoming Ws. But, then again, this is 2020… So anything is possible.
Final Call: Dodgers in… 4?
This series is going to come down to who wins Game 1. If the Padres can swing momentum their way with a big win in Game 1, then they’re in the driver’s seat. The Dodgers aren’t used to playing from behind, so that works in the Dads favor.
If the Dodgers come out and set the tone for the series with a resounding win from Walker Buehler, they hold all the cards.
However, on paper, the Dodgers have everything going for them. IF they can’t win a ring in 2020’s shortened season after having dominated all year, then it’s going to be a long few years while this team tries to figure out where to add another stud.
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