The Los Angeles Dodgers try to guarantee at least a series split against the St. Louis Cardinals after they took opener of a four-game series backed by early runs and a brilliant performance from Max Scherzer.
The Dodgers, at 87-51, still trail the San Francisco Giants by one game for the National League West lead. The Cardinals, who hold a 69-67 record, are 3.5 games out of the second Wild Card spot.
Although this game has a lot of meaning for the standings, the story will be on Albert Pujols, who is starting at first base against the team whose hat he will wear on his Hall of Fame plaque one day.
While Pujols acknowledged it is special to face his former team, he doesn’t want it to become a distraction to him or the team.
“I think at the end of the day, for myself, I always try to let those things play out the way they’re going to play out,” Pujols said this week.
“I don’t like to bring distractions on myself. I try to prepare myself for the game and things I have to do. Just let things play out the way I did in 2019.
“If you start thinking about how things are going to play, and it doesn’t go the way that you thought, then you’ll be disappointed. I’m really excited about going back. Hopefully we have a good series out there.”
On the mound, the Dodgers will be going with a bullpen game. Corey Knebl is again filling the role of opener that Mitch White will likely follow to throw the bulk of the innings.
White has performed well for the Dodgers this season in the follower role. In 38.2 innings, he holds a 3.49 ERA and 4.05 FIP with 41 strikeouts.
As a team, St.Louis is hitting .236/.309/.385 with a 90 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers, but their offense has been better over the last calendar month with a .263/.343/.448 line and a 115 wRC+.
The Cardinals counter with veteran southpaw J.A. Happ, who they acquired at the trade deadline from the Minnesota Twins.
In 127.2 innings, Happ has posted a 6.20 ERA and 5.41 FIP with 100 strikeouts, however, he has been more effective with the Cardinals, posting a 4.30 ERA across 29.1 innings.
The Dodgers offense has been inconsistent over the last month, hitting .226/.309/.412 with a 96 wRC+. Against left-handers this season, they have been about league-average, hitting .235/.312/.424 with a 100 wRC+.
Although L.A. was able to score five runs on Monday, manager Dave Roberts wants to see his team do better after they were mostly shut down in the following eight innings.
“It was good to score five runs, certainly a positive. But eight innings, to score one run, isn’t good enough for our club. And our guys understand that,” Roberts said after the win.
“It took an error by the catcher to get Mookie in scoring position and a two-out hit by Corey to get that fifth run, so your point is heard and it’s right. For us to play championship-caliber baseball like we’re capable of doing, it’s got to be better. It absolutely does.”
Prior to first pitch the Dodgers selected the contract of Steven Souza Jr. and optioned Zach McKinstry. Garrett Cleavinger was transferred to the 60-day injured list to make room on the 40-man roster, which has ended his 2021 season.
For the scoreboard watchers, the Giants face the Colorado Rockies an hour after the Dodgers’ game begins.
2B: Trea Turner
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Albert Pujols
SS: Corey Seager
LF: Chris Taylor
C: Will Smith
RF: Steven Souza Jr.
CF: Cody Bellinger
P: Corey Knebel
2B: Tommy Edman
RF: Dylan Carlson
LF: Tyler O’Neill
3B: Nolan Arenado
C: Yadier Molina
1B: Matt Carpenter
SS: Paul DeJong
CF: Harrison Bader
P: J.A. Happ
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