Wandy Rodriguez lasted just four innings against the Padres on Saturday, allowing five runs to give him a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 outings, and afterward Astros pitching coach Doug Brocail suggested that the left-hander is distracted by trade rumors.
“We saw it last year when we were going through it and his name kept coming up,” Brocail said, via Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle. “He gets a little nervous about that. I try to tell him it’s nothing you can control, But I see it because I’m with him every day and talk to him every day. I just think that lately his mind’s been elsewhere, and we need to work on that.”
Rodriguez has been one of the best, most underrated starters in the National League, posting ERAs of 3.54, 3.02, 3.60, and 3.49 from 2008-2011, so when he struggles it’s natural to search for a reason. And while Brocail is right that Rodriguez also struggled some around the trade deadline last season, posting a 4.94 ERA in July, he also had a 3.32 ERA in August while rumors continued to swirl around him leading up the waiver trade deadline.
The funny thing about baseball is that when Rodriguez posted a 2.14 ERA in his first 10 starts this season no one searched for reasons why he was clearly out-performing his career norms, yet when he’s posted a 5.65 ERA in his last 10 starts now his reaction to trade rumors is viewed as the cause. Both the 2.14 ERA early and the 5.65 recently are basically equally out of line from his established track record, and if you add them up Rodriguez has a 3.75 ERA overall this season. His combined ERA during the previous five seasons? 3.63.
The Dodgers and Astros have selected their starters for Game 1 of the World Series. Left-hander Dallas Keuchel will open the series for the Astros, while fellow lefty Clayton Kershaw will take the mound for the first of two home games at Dodger Stadium.
Keuchel, 29, has been a steady presence for the Astros this postseason. He clinched Game 2 of the ALDS with 5 2/3 innings of one-run, seven-strikeout ball against the Red Sox and returned for his second postseason win with seven scoreless innings against the Yankees in Game 1 of the ALCS. He was outmatched in Game 5 of the Championship Series, however, scattering four runs and eight strikeouts across 4 2/3 innings while the Yankees worked their way up to a 5-0 shutout. Nevertheless, he’s perhaps the Astros’ strongest arm behind ALCS MVP Justin Verlander and has not surrendered a single home run in 17 1/3 consecutive innings this postseason.
Kershaw, on the other hand, has had a less consistent track record in the playoffs. While his postseason yips have been well-documented thus far, his struggles on the mound haven’t always led to disaster — at least not this time around. The Dodgers are 3-0 in all three of Kershaw’s starts this month and enjoyed a quality start from their ace during Game 5 of the NLCS last Thursday. The 29-year-old southpaw recorded his second win of the playoffs with a run, three hits, a walk and five strikeouts over six innings. Unlike Keuchel, he’s given up a home run in each of his outings to date (and four homers in Game 1 of the NLDS).
Game 1 is set for Tuesday evening at 8:00 PM ET. The Dodgers have home field advantage through Games 1 and 2 before the series moves to Houston, and will try to capitalize on that advantage in order to extend their postseason winning streak at Dodger Stadium. They’re 4-0 at home and 3-1 on the road this October, while the Astros boast a 6-0 advantage in Houston and a significantly less impressive 1-4 record away from home.