Dodgers Vs. Pirates Game Preview: Ryan Pepiot Makes MLB Debut, Will Smith & Chris Taylor Return To Lineup

After dropping the first game of the series by scoring just one run, the Los Angeles Dodgers lineup exploded in their victory on Tuesday and now have a chance to win the series in the rubber match against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The Dodgers enter the game at 20-8, tied with the New York Yankees for the best record in baseball, with the top run differential by far at +80. The Pirates enter at 12-17, good for third in the National League East, with a run differential of -51.

Ryan Pepiot, the Dodgers’ No. 2 pitching prospect, takes the mound for his MLB debut. The 24-year-old was under consideration to make his debut last season but struggled after a promotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City.

However, Pepiot has put those issues behind him and had a strong start to the 2022 season, which earned him Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Month honors for April. Across his five starts during that span, the right-hander went 2-0 with a 1.66 ERA.

Pepiot allowed just four earned runs during April — split evenly over two starts — and collected 29 strikeouts while holding opponents to a .182 batting average across 21.2 innings pitched.

Pepiot’s longest start was his most recent outing, during which he completed six innings and allowed two runs. His most dominant performance came April 22, when he had a season-high eight strikeouts and allowed three hits over five innings.

Will Smith returns to the Dodgers lineup after missing their previous two games due to right pectoral trouble. Smith has appeared in 20 (18 starts) of the Dodgers’ 27 games this season. He’s batting .231/.342/.369 with three doubles, two home runs, 13 RBI and a 114 wRC+.

The Pirates counter with left-hander Dillon Peters in what will be a bullpen game for them. The 29-year-old Peters has thrown 16.2 innings this season in nine games, but he has only made two starts.

Peters owns a 2.16 ERA this season with 13 strikeouts, but he holds a career 5.16 ERA across 176 innings. He lasted 3.1 innings in his previous start on May 4 and allowed no runs on one hit, but he only went two innings in his first start on April 27.

Offensively, the Dodgers are batting .235/.322/.383 with a 108 wRC+ and 26 home runs this season, but most of their success has come against right-handers. The Pirates are hitting .241/.305/.367 with a 96 wRC+ and 22 home runs.

Trea Turner is in the leadoff spot as Mookie Betts is out of the lineup for rest one day after his hitting streak was snapped at 10 games. Chris Taylor returns in what’s an encouraging sign as he suffered a bone bruise in his left knee during the series opener.

Edwin Ríos also is in the Dodgers lineup, making a second consecutive start. Ríos pinch-hit in the ninth inning of the series opener and led off with a home run, and followed that by going 3-for-5 with a homer and three RBI on Tuesday.

Dodgers lineup

SS: Trea Turner
1B: Freddie Freeman
C: Will Smith
2B: Max Muncy
3B: Justin Turner
CF: Cody Bellinger
RF: Chris Taylor
DH: Edwin Ríos
LF: Gavin Lux

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