A pair of workhorse pitchers will clash Wednesday when the Los Angeles Dodgers host the Philadelphia Phillies in the finale of a three-game series.
Also expected is another sold-out Dodger Stadium after 52,078 were in attendance Tuesday, the day California dropped most mask mandates and social-distancing requirements. It was the Dodgers’ first packed house since the 2019 playoffs.
Right-hander Zack Wheeler will start for the Phillies, taking his National League-leading 90 1/3 innings and 112 strikeouts up against left-hander Clayton Kershaw, who has finished in the top 10 of NL Cy Young voting nine times. That includes a ninth-place finish in the voting last season.
Wheeler (4-3, 2.29 ERA) has gone seven or more innings in eight of his last nine starts, including a scoreless eight-inning stint Thursday against the Atlanta Braves. He struck out 12 batters and did not give up a walk in that outing.
“I don’t know why he’s not being mentioned (as an All-Star candidate) way more,” said shortstop Jean Segura, who might not be available to help the cause Wednesday after he sustained a groin injury in the ninth inning Tuesday. “He deserves to get more mention by the league, by everybody. Because his stuff is really, really good.”
That stuff might have to be especially good on Wednesday. Not only is Segura expected to miss the game, the Phillies will possibly be without Bryce Harper (back), who also was injured Tuesday.
Wheeler has just four starts against the Dodgers over seven seasons, going 1-2 with a 5.87 ERA. The last time he faced Los Angeles was in 2019 as a member of the New York Mets, when he gave up just one run in seven innings of a no-decision.
The Phillies will need Wheeler’s guidance to avoid a three-game sweep. Philadelphia rallied for a 3-3 tie in the fifth inning Tuesday, only to see the Dodgers’ Mookie Betts hit a go-ahead home run in the seventh on the way to a 5-3 Los Angeles victory. Betts had three hits.
The Dodgers have now won seven of their last eight as they turn the ball over to Kershaw (8-5, 3.39), who has weathered a bumpy ride of late. The left-hander did not give up an earned run in six innings of a win against the Texas Rangers on Friday, but that outing came after he gave up five earned runs in consecutive losses against the Braves and San Francisco Giants.
In 15 career starts against the Phillies, Kershaw is 4-5 with a 2.75 ERA. While Segura and Harper are key to the Phillies’ offense, Kershaw has handled both in the past. Harper is 5-for-27 (.185) lifetime against the three-time Cy Young winner, while Segura is 2-for-19 (.105).
Kershaw knows sold-out crowds at Dodger Stadium well, but Betts was playing in front of his first Tuesday since his trade to Los Angeles in advance of the 2020 season. The last time Betts saw a packed house in Los Angeles, his Boston Red Sox were clinching the 2018 World Series.
“Just to play in front of a full Dodger Stadium, on the right team, is something I have been looking forward to,” Betts said on the Spectrum SportsNet LA broadcast. “To play well was the cherry on top.”
–Field Level Media