By Jon Weisman
Jake Arrieta might be the top National League Cy Young Award contender outside of Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw. But if the Dodgers can top him tonight, they’ll have a 4 1/2-game lead in the NL West, which would be their biggest since July 12.
San Francisco, which lost to St. Louis today for the second consecutive time this weekend, arrives in Los Angeles on Monday for a highly anticipated three-game series.
Arrieta has a 2.22 ERA, putting him in second place in the NL between Greinke (1.61) and Kershaw (2.24). The 29-year-old righty is fourth in the NL in wins above replacement (4.9), behind Kershaw (6.6), Greinke (5.1) and the slumping Max Scherzer (4.9). In xFIP, Arrieta is in second place behind Kershaw.
Like Kershaw, Arrieta has heated up with the heat. He has a 1.17 ERA with 89 strikeouts in 92 innings since June 21, and in fact, enters tonight’s game as the frontrunner for NL Pitcher of the Month honors (33 1/3 innings, two earned runs, 0.54 ERA, 31 strikeouts).
The Dodgers counter with Alex Wood, who has allowed 27 hits with 14 walks in 29 innings as a Dodger. Wood allowed one run in 5 2/3 innings in his last start.
A win tonight would also tie the Dodgers with the Cubs for the third-best record in the NL: 73-56.
* * *
Kiké Hernandez is getting his first official start for the Dodgers at third base tonight. Eric Stephen of True Blue L.A. beat me to the punch on this, so I’ll just crib from him: Hernandez is the first Dodger to start at second, short, third and all three outfield positions in the same year since Bobby Valentine in 1972.
Hernandez’s experience at third has been limited to 14 2/3 Major League innings and 25 minor-league games, but he has taken grounders there during the season and played there in winter ball, according to Don Mattingly.
Since July 24, Hernandez has a .397 batting average, .443 on-base percentage and .589 slugging percentage.
Hernandez will be batting behind Joc Pederson, whom as ESPN’s Buster Olney pointed out, is on the verge of a unique month in baseball history. No player with at least 20 walks in any calendar month has had fewer than the seven hits by Roger Maris in August 1959, but with two games to go in August 2015, Pederson is at 21 walks and five hits.
Maris went 7 for 79 with 20 walks in August 1959, at age 24. That winter, he would be traded to the Yankees, for whom he would win American League Most Valuable Player awards in 1960 and 1961, hitting 100 home runs.