Snell too much for Dodgers’ bats in finale

Snell too much for Dodgers’ bats in finale

Stymied by Padres’ ace, L.A.’s offense gets a glimpse of October-caliber pitching

6:04 AM UTC

LOS ANGELES — At this point in the season and with the division lead they’ve built, it’s a matter of when, not if, the Dodgers win their 10th National League West title in 11 seasons. 

But as has been the case these last few seasons, the Dodgers will use the last few weeks sorting out through some questions before they make a run at a second World Series title in four years. 

One of those questions is how they’ll line up against left-handed pitching in October – and if they’ll have enough firepower. In a 6-1 loss to the Padres on Wednesday at Dodger Stadium, the Dodgers had no answers for Padres ace Blake Snell, who represents the quality of pitcher they’ll see in the postseason. 

Mookie Betts led off the game with a soft single that dropped in front of Juan Soto in left field. Betts also reached on a walk in the third inning. That’s all the offense the Dodgers managed against Snell, who struck out eight and walked just one over six dominant innings.

“Yeah, I mean, we’ve faced him quite a bit,” said Dodgers utilityman Chris Taylor. “I thought tonight … I mean, he’s always had success against us. I thought tonight was the best he’s looked since we’ve faced him.”

The Dodgers have been one of the most potent offenses this season regardless of the pitcher’s handedness. Against right-handed pitching, however, the Dodgers have a set lineup given Jason Heyward’s strong season and David Peralta’s ability to hit for a decent average. 

Against southpaws, playing time will be decided based on matchups and how each player is performing. On Wednesday, the Dodgers didn’t start Max Muncy against Snell just to give him a day off.

Muncy has had a strong season in ‘23, but has struggled against lefties more than he has in previous campaigns, entering play Wednesday with a .149 average, compared to a .236 clip against righties. Still, the Dodgers would want Muncy’s on-base ability in the lineup on most nights in October. If Muncy starts at third against lefties, however, it does set off a chain of decisions.

Kiké Hernández started at third on Wednesday, but also has the ability to play center field. That position, of course, belongs to James Outman, who was the only player to record a hard-hit ball off Snell on Wednesday. Hernández’s role on the team is to hit lefties, so he’s going to be in every variation of the lineup unless he goes on a big slump before October. But starting Hernández means Muncy or Outman are probably out of the lineup. 

However, there is also the scenario where Hernández starts at second base, which would force Amed Rosario — who has struggled at the plate recently — to be relegated to a bat off the bench. Rosario has been much better against lefties in his career.

The Dodgers have a few weeks to figure out how they want to map out their plan against lefties. The good news is they won’t have to face Snell, given where the Padres are in the standings. But Wednesday’s challenge served as a good reminder that this is the level of pitcher they’ll see all next month.

“I think it’s a test in the sense that you’re facing an elite pitcher,” Roberts said. “But the preparation, the focus, the importance of every pitch, that’s hard to simulate during the regular season.”

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