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Series Preview: Now That’s What I Call Dodgers, Vol. 2

After a year-long hiatus, the series preview has returned. After a four-day hiatus, the Dodgers have returned. And there’s rain now, too.

You wouldn’t believe how much digital dust was on the Series Previews archive. Such an unbelievable amount of it, in fact, that it turns this dumb joke all the way back into the reality that there’s no such thing as digital dust. Sort of how — no, exactly how — the Giants just played the Dodgers — this week — and they’ve turned all the way back around to play the Dodgers again this week. And there will be four more games before month’s end, because Major League Baseball thinks the best way to consume 64 slices of American cheese is in a single sitting.

Sure, I was writing the second half of the post as news broke that tonight’s game would be postponed and rescheduled for April 28th, but that doesn’t change how I felt when I clicked New Story in the content management system: the schedule has made it so that any postponements roll us right into an endless matchup of the Giants vs. the Dodgers... over and over and Kershaw and over again. The Dodgers will be with us forever, you see. You can’t outrun Yasiel Puig; he only wants to give you a hug! Cody Bellinger lives under your bed. That’s Rich Hill delivering your mail.

And it’ll be Clayton Kershaw on Sunday for the 43rd time, the most he’s faced any opponent. It feels like that number should be twice as high, and the Giants’ tOPS+ of 70 feels like it should be twice as low. There’s no way they only play 30% worse than their average against him.

On the other hand, Ty Blach will face the Dodgers for the 9th time of his career, the most he’s faced any opponent. That actually feels about right, his number of games against, and beyond that, he seems to have a genetic predisposition towards pitching his best against them; but what feels completely out of whack and almost like some sort of cosmic quirk that proves we’re living in a computer-generated simulation is the Dodgers’ tOPS+ of 47. That’s... that’s... impossible? It’s sample size shenanigans, of course. He’s pitched 41.1 innings against them, which is 13.5% of the total Kershaw’s logged against the Giants.

We don’t know yet if the Dodgers will switch up their planned rotation for the series (we do now, bro: it’s Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw), though it’s a safe bet that Kershaw is pitching Sunday no matter what happens. The real question remains: has the Giants offense stepped into its potential or is Felix Hernandez and the Mariners’ pitching staff really that bad? My sources (both hemispheres of my brain) say yes to those last two questions, but it might not matter in the face of Kershaw and/or Maeda/Hill (it’s Hill, dude). One other dangling thread from just a few days ago involves Joe Panik: do the Dodgers give him “respect walks” again or do they just pitch to their scouting reports?

The Dodgers are fresh off being swept in Arizona and are 2-5 to begin the season. It’s their worst start since 1998, but never, ever count out their money. I mean their talent. Their talent for doing things like purchasing the contract of Zach Neal on Tuesday, having him throw one inning against the Diamondbacks that night, then designating him for assignment yesterday. Or their talent for convincing Kenley Jansen to make the baseball world think he’s lost velocity when he’s probably playing some sort of long con. Selling a fake clubhouse conflict could be the new, dramatic market inefficiency Andrew Friedman & Farhan Zaidi have decided to exploit. Don’t think too hard about this idea of mine that I’m projecting onto them, though, because it’s going to fall apart real fast if you do.

Look, we can consider all sorts of crazy notions about the Dodgers because Matt Kemp is their starting left fielder and because the Giants’ scheduled has fused with theirs in a harrowing and somewhat dispiriting situation that is best described as Tuvixesque. But if I have to evaluate the situation critically, then I would say that the Giants best chance to winning this two-game series is by scoring more runs than the Dodgers do.

In immediate hindsight, that’s a regrettable and obvious declaration, but it has been extremely difficult for the Giants to do exactly that against this particular trio of starters. They’ve scored 96 total runs (86 earned) in the Maeda, Hill, and Kershaw’s combined 403.2 innings against them (1.92 ERA). The good news is, they’ll only have to face two of those three dudes now (seriously, man, it’s Rich Hill and Clayton Kershaw), and the Giants only have to win one of these games to split another series. The story of this wet, messy series might just be which team is the better mudder.

Or we’ll wind up spending more time thinking about Andrew McCutchen’s slow start or why the postponed got rescheduled how it did... in any case...