Previewing NLCS Game 3

Publish date:

Breaking down Game 3 of the National League Championship Series. All stats for starting pitchers are for this postseason only.

Series: NLCS, Game 3

Time: 8:22 p.m. EST


Starters:Jamie Moyer (0-1, 4.50 ERA) vs. Hiroki Kuroda (1-0, 0.00)

The Rays pulled out their must-win game in extra-innings last night. Now, the Dodgers arrive home down 0-2 in the NLCS facing not just one, but a pair of must-win games. With Cole Hamels lurking as the Phillies' Game 5 starter, the Dodgers simply cannot afford to lose either tonight or Monday and give Hamels a chance to pitch Philadelphia into the World Series Wednesday night. Fortunately for the Dodgers, tonight's pitching matchup is in their favor. Hiroki Kuroda dominated the Phillies in a pair of August starts, one in each ballpark, allowing just two runs on four hits (none of them homers) and a pair of walks while striking out 12 in 13 total innings. Of the other 27 outs Kuroda induced in those two games, 19 of them came on the ground. Kuroda was even better in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Cubs at Dodger Stadium, getting 17 of his 19 outs via groundball or strikeout while holding the Chicago scoreless over 6 1/3 innings. As for any concern that the seven-day layoff between Game 3 of the NLDS and tonight's contest will make Kuroda too fresh, thus robbing his sinker of its sink, in his three starts this season on six or more days of rest, Kuroda allowed just one run in 22 innings, getting 47 of 66 outs via strikeout or groundout.

Kuroda only received three runs of support in Game 3 of the NLDS, but there's reason to expect more tonight. The Dodgers only hit .221/.308/.324 in Games 1 and 2 of this series at Citizens Bank Park, but in four regular-season games in Philadelphia after the trading-deadline acquisition of Manny Ramirez, they hit an eerily similar .250/.308/.326. By comparison, they hit .297/.377/.482 at home after the addition of Ramirez, averaging 5.44 runs per game.

Jamie Moyer was much better on the road than at home this year, going 10-3 with a 2.92 ERA with just nine home runs allowed in 17 starts outside of Phily, but he's the only pitcher on either roster to have taken a loss this postseason. Moyer gave up only two runs in his NLDS Game 3 start in Milwaukee, but he lasted just four innings, during which he walked three, uncorked one wild pitch, and used up 90 pitches. Moyer hasn't faced the Dodgers since July of last year, when they were a very different team, but even then he got lit up for 10 runs in 5 1/3 innings at Dodger Stadium. That was the veteran lefty's first appearance at Chavez Ravine in a decade. As a result, there are only two Dodgers who have faced him more than 10 times. Those two are relocated American Leaguers Casey Blake, who is just 2 for 17 against Moyer in his career, though both hits were home runs, and Ramirez, who has hit .340/.417/.962 with 10 home runs in 53 career at-bats against Moyer. The remaining Dodger starters are a combined 4 for 17 against Moyer. Of course, none of those at-bats occurred this season.

As for the Phillies' offense, it's worth noting that Chase Utley, who was 2-for-4 with a two-run home run in Game 1, was walked four times in Game 2. Utley hits third in front of the slumping Ryan Howard, who is 2-for-19 with seven strikeouts in this postseason and 0-for-8 in the NLCS, and of those four Game 2 walks, three were followed by a Howard out, and two of those came with two outs in the inning with Howard making the final out. Though none of those walks were technically intentional, it seems clear that, when given the choice, the Dodgers are going to put Utley on and force Howard to beat them. Indeed, the only Phillie to reach base more than once against Kuroda in his two starts against them this year was Utley, who singled and doubled in six at-bats. By contrast, Howard struck out in three of his six turns against Kuroda without reaching base once. In his career, Howard has hit .231/.328/.635 at Dodger Stadium, and seven of his 12 hits there have been home runs. Kuroda, meanwhile, has allowed just six home runs at home all year. Something's gotta give, and it seems most likely to continue to be Howard, who has hit .161 in nine postseason games over the past two Octobers, his one postseason home run coming leading off an inning with his team down by seven runs in last years NLDS Game 2.