Lynn fighting for big role in LA's postseason pitching plans

September 19th, 2023

LOS ANGELES -- When the Dodgers acquired from the White Sox in late July, they knew there was some work to be done. 

The veteran right-hander had an ERA north of 6.00 and was struggling to limit homers. Still, the Dodgers believed that Lynn’s stuff hadn’t declined from past seasons and was going to help them throughout the regular season and into the postseason. 

With two weeks left before the Dodgers have to make tough roster decisions, especially with the pitching staff, Lynn has to prove that he’s deserving of a big role in October. In the Dodgers’ 8-3 win over the Tigers on Monday at Dodger Stadium, Lynn showed signs of what could make him a weapon, but also of what could hurt his chances.

“All in all, I think I threw the ball well,” Lynn said. “I know what is expected here moving forward. I know what I’m capable of and I have a couple more starts to kind of find my ground here and give it everything I have, especially in the playoffs.”

Even with his struggles this year, Lynn has shown the ability to rack up large strikeout numbers. Earlier this season with the White Sox, Lynn recorded 16 strikeouts against the Mariners, the most in a game by any pitcher in the Majors in 2023. 

On Monday, Lynn struck out three of the five hitters he faced in the first inning, working around a hit-by-pitch and a two-out walk drawn by Kerry Carpenter. Lynn was able to get out of some trouble in the second and recorded three more punchouts in the third. 

In the fifth, however, Lynn wasn’t able to limit the damage. He gave up back-to-back two-out singles to Miguel Cabrera and Carpenter. Then, the home run problem that has plagued Lynn all season surfaced once again as Jake Rogers blasted a three-run shot to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 5-3. Lynn has now given up an MLB-leading 42 homers.

“I thought it was a good outing. It could’ve been really good,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “I thought even given some of the command issues with the hit batsman, the two walks. But if you think about the things we really value, there were a lot of empty swings tonight. A lot more strikeouts. … For me, it was definitely a big step in the right direction.”

Before the game, Roberts mentioned he had a conversation with Lynn about what his role could look like in the postseason. Lynn, who has made a career of getting deep into games, doesn’t necessarily have to do that in October for the Dodgers to be successful. Los Angeles would gladly take three or four strong innings from Lynn before turning it over to the bullpen. 

It’s not a traditional way to win games, but it’s where the Dodgers are right now given the state of the starting rotation. They believe that’s the best way for them to win 11 games in October. On Monday, they used four relievers behind Lynn and they retired all 12 batters they faced, combining for seven strikeouts. 

“Working with [Joe Kelly], his stuff is electric. Shelby [Miller] has had a tremendous year,” Roberts said. “Then you look at what [Caleb Ferguson and Alex Vesia] did tonight, just really efficient, three up and three down and really did a good job of commanding the baseball.”

Offensively, the Dodgers continued to swing hot bats. They got to left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez for five runs through three innings, led by a two-homer night from J.D. Martinez. Rodriguez, of course, was on the verge of becoming a Dodger at the Deadline after the two clubs had agreed to a deal to send him to Los Angeles. Rodriguez, who had a no-trade clause in his contract, ultimately decided to veto the trade.

That feels like a lifetime ago now for the Dodgers, and their sights are squarely set on the players inside the clubhouse and a deep run in October.