The Los Angeles Dodgers will begin a three-game series against the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, Calif., starting Friday night, hoping to get a couple of their key lefties on the right track.
Left-handed starter Clayton Kershaw will try to bounce back from a rough time in his last appearance, aloss to the San Francisco Giants last Saturday. Left-handed hitter Cody Bellinger, meanwhile, is simply trying to find his MVP-caliber groove.
Bellinger, who went 0-for-3 Thursday against the San Diego Padres, is hitting just .165/.224/.266 with two homers and seven RBIs. He's even worse against left-handed pitchers, hitting .091 (2-for-22) with no extra-base hits.
And Friday night, the Angels will throw left-hander Patrick Sandoval, who has given up only one hit to a left-handed hitter this season in 15 at-bats.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, though, said he believes Bellinger and others in the lineup who are struggling (Max Muncy and Joc Pederson also are hitting less than .200) have been affected by this season's unique circumstances.
With expanded rosters (28 instead of 25), teams have bigger bullpens and consequently can pull the starter earlier than normal and match up with relievers more frequently.
"There's more guys in the 'pen," Roberts said. "Managers are matching up more, and there's a lot of big power arms in 'pens across the league. Managers have 10, 11 guys in the 'pen these days. I think that's probably a big part of it."
Kershaw missed the start of the season with a bad back but had a stellar first start when he shut out the Arizona Diamondbacks on three hits over 5 2/3 innings on Aug. 2. He struck out six and did not walk a batter. But in his loss to the Giants, he didn't make it out of the fifth inning, giving up four runs on seven hits and one walk in 4 1/3 innings, struggling with his command.
Kershaw has been good against the Angels in his career, going 6-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 11 starts. He's had success against center fielder Mike Trout, holding him to two hits in 13 at-bats with four strikeouts. First baseman/DH Albert Pujols, however, has hit Kershaw well, batting .375 (12-for-32) with five doubles.
Sandoval is still looking for his first victory of the season, but he's pitched impressively in both of his starts. He yielded two runs (one earned) on four hits and one walk in four innings against the Seattle Mariners on July 28, then held the Texas Rangers to two runs on four hits and one walk in six innings last Saturday.
Sandoval has a 2.70 ERA and opposing batters are hitting just .211 against him. Angels manager Joe Maddon said he believes Sandoval's recent outings weren't flukes.
"This is what I thought we would see with him," Maddon said. "I think he has this kind of potential. I don't think that's an outlier. I think that's the kind of performance he's capable of on a more consistent basis. Better fastball command, really good slider and changeup when he needed it."
Sandoval has never faced the Dodgers.
--Field Level Media