Scott Van Slyke is thriving next to the Dodgers’ big-name, high-priced outfielders

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There’s been lots of talk about the Dodgers having four big-name outfielders for three starting spots, but while everyone debates how manager Don Mattingly should divvy up the playing time among Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier a different outfielder has been the most productive in the bunch.

In what is admittedly limited playing time of 90 plate appearances facing primarily left-handed pitching, Scott Van Slyke has hit .278 with six homers, five doubles, and a 1.060 OPS. By comparison, Puig has a 1.014 OPS and the none of the other three big-name outfielders are above a .750 OPS.

Van Slyke’s strong production dates back further than this season, too. Last year in 152 plate appearances for the Dodgers he posted an .807 OPS that ranked third on the team behind Hanley Ramirez and Puig, and his numbers in the minors include a .330 batting average with 31 homers, 55 doubles, and a 1.009 OPS in 171 games at Triple-A.

Van Slyke can hit and at age 27 he deserves an extended look to see exactly how good he could be in a full-time role, but he picked just about the worst situation possible in which to potentially get that extended look. So he’ll have to settle for posting big numbers in small playing time for now.

Dan Patrick Show: Don Mattingly talks Dodgers’ chemistry issues

Red Sox look to punch their ticket to the World Series tonight

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Thanks to some amazing defense, some big hits and — to continue to beat this horse, a bad call by Joe West — the Red Sox have a 3-1 lead in the ALCS and look to clinch the AL Pennant tonight down in Houston.

If you believe in momentum, you’d have to say it’s on Boston’s side. If you believe that momentum is the next day’s starting pitcher, however, you’d have to say things favor Houston more than the standing of the series would suggest. All of which makes me wish Game 5 was starting right now, because it figures to be a tense and exciting affair.

ALCS Game 5

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 8:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: David Price vs. Justin Verlander
Breakdown:

If someone told you that you had to win one baseball game against the Martians to save the human race, you could do far worse than calling on Justin Verlander to be your starting pitcher. Among the pitchers still in the postseason, he’d almost certainly be your choice right now.

Does Verlander himself appreciate the situation? This is what he said about that yesterday:

“I mean, these are all must-win games at this point. Every time you take the mound I don’t think there’s any difference whether it’s 2-2 or 3-1.”

Look, we’re asking him to beat the Martians here, not win the National Math Bee, so let’s let that go. The point is that after all of these years he’s still one of the most dominant pitchers in the game and after the exhausting, see-saw battle of Game 4, he stands the best chance of giving Houston what it needs: a quick, quiet and drama-free win.

Not that the Red Sox are likely to roll over for that. They didn’t the first time they faced Verlander in this series. They Astros won, yes, and Verlander limited them to two runs on two hits. But he also issued four walks and wasn’t his sharpest overall. Boston didn’t capitalize on his mistakes as best they could, but he’s not invincible.

For Boston it’s David Price. He allowed four runs on five hits and four walks over four and two-thirds innings in Game 2, not factoring in the decision. That’s not great, but given the talk leading up to that game being all about how Price is a postseason flop, the fact that the Sox won it in the end had to bouy him at least a little. As does the fact that, here, tonight, it’s not 100% on his shoulders. Sure, the Sox want to close this out, but with a 3-1 lead there is less pressure on Price than on his former teammate Verlander. Worth noting, though: Price is on short rest and warmed up in the bullpen last night in case he was needed to bail out Craig Kimbrel. He may not go deep into this game.