Dodgers can set themselves up for NLCS by beating Freddy Garcia

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The Dodgers emerged victorious in Game 3 of the NLDS against the Braves by a 13-6 margin tonight, taking a 2-1 lead in the best-of-five series. Dodgers starter Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to face off against Braves starter Freddy Garcia on Monday night.

Garcia is 37 years old and has exactly one good season dating back to 2006. He finished the 2013 regular season with an aggregate 4.37 ERA compiled with the Orioles and Braves. While Garcia has been stingy with the walks, he has struck hitters out at a clip below 14 percent, nearly matching a career-low set in 2010. As always, Garcia has allowed a ton of home runs — 18 of them this season in just 80.1 innings. The Dodgers, who ranked third in batting average and on-base percentage and fourth in OPS, should be able to overcome the right-hander.

If the Dodgers do manage to beat Garcia and clinch an appearance in the NLCS at home, they won’t have to use ace Clayton Kershaw until Game 1 of the NLCS, and they would follow up in Game 2 with Zack Greinke. The Dodgers could also set up their rotation in the NLCS so they can use Kershaw in Game 4, as well as in Game 7 if necessary as a contingency plan. Of course, the hope would be, just as it is now, that the Dodgers would finish the series before needing to use Kershaw in a clinching game.

There is one problem, though: Nolasco looked completely spent towards the end of the season. Between his Dodgers debut on July 9 and September 9, he posted a 2.07 ERA in 12 starts spanning 74 innings. In his next three starts and one relief appearance, he posted an 11.77 ERA over 13 innings, averaging nearly two hits allowed per inning. If Nolasco can’t get the job done against the Braves, then the Dodgers will be forced to burn Kershaw in Game 5 of the NLDS. Then, if they win, they would have to open the NLCS with Greinke. Kershaw could pitch Game 3 and then manager Don Mattingly would have to decide if he wants Kershaw to pitch Game 6 on short rest, or Game 7 if necessary in a clinching game.

The Dodgers can avoid that giant headache by bringing the lumber against Garcia the way they did against Julio Teheran in Game 3.

Matthew Stafford audibles with “Kershaw! Kershaw!”

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Last night the Detroit Lions played the New York Giants. During the game Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford called an audible. The call itself referenced Stafford’s childhood friend and high school baseball teammate, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw. From the Freep:

Matthew Stafford stepped to the line of scrimmage late in the third quarter and surveyed the Giants defense.

With five pass rushers across the front and three Giants cornerbacks showing a press-man look, Stafford looked at his two receivers to the left and invoked the name of his childhood friend, Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw.

“Give me Kershaw here, Kershaw,” Stafford said, repeating his friend’s name two more times as he spun around at the line of scrimmage.

The audible did not result in a pick-4 to Aaron Altherr. It called for a run up the middle. And it worked nicely, gaining eight yards.

You may suggest the results of other starting pitcher-themed audibles in the comments. I’ll start: “Harvey! Harvey!” is where the QB fakes a handoff, drops back, looks deep and then his arm falls completely off. Damndest thing.

Matt Harvey has a 13.19 ERA since coming back from the disabled list

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Matt Harvey‘s season was mostly a loss due to extended time on the disabled list. He’s been given a chance, however, to end the season strong and make a case for himself in the Mets’ future plans. Unfortunately, he has been unable to make that case. He was shelled again last night, and his late season opportunity has been a disaster.

Last night Harvey gave up seven runs on 12 hits and struck out only two batters in four innings against a Marlins team that, until facing him anyway, had been reeling. It was his fourth start since going on the shelf in mid-June and in those four starts he’s allowed 21 runs, all earned, on 32 hits in 14.2 innings, for an ERA of 13.19. In that time he’s struck out only eight batters while walking seven. His average fastball velocity, while ticking up slightly in each of his past four starts, is still below 95. Back when he was an ace he was consistently above that. His command has been terrible.

Injury is clearly the culprit. He had Tommy John surgery just as he was reaching his maximum level of dominance in 2013. While he came back strong in 2015, he was used pretty heavily for a guy with a brand new ligament. Last year he was felled by thoracic outlet syndrome and this year a stress injury to his shoulder. Any one of those ailments have ended pitchers’ careers and even among those who bounce back from them, many are diminished. To go through all three and remain dominant is practically unheard of.

Yet this is where Matt Harvey is. He’s 28. He’s still arbitration eligible, for a team that is, to put it politely, sensitive to large financial outlays. While his 4-5 start opportunity to end the year may very well have been seen as a chance to shop Harvey to another team, his trade value is at an all-time low. It would not be shocking if, on the basis of his recent ineffectiveness, the Mets considered non-tendering him this offseason, making him a free agent.

Someone would probably take a chance on him because famous names who once showed tremendous promise are often given multiple chances in the big leagues (See, Willis, Dontrelle). But at the moment, there is nothing in Harvey’s game to suggest that he is capable of taking advantage of such a chance. All one can hope is that an offseason of rest and conditioning will allow Harvey to reclaim at least a portion of his old form.