In the Sunday paper, Bill Plaschke called Trevor Bauer “officially the biggest embarrassment in Los Angeles Dodgers history.”
Maybe. But history seldom offers a silver lining more glistening than this: If Bauer is on the Dodgers’ roster, Max Scherzer is not.
With Scherzer here in place of Bauer, the Dodgers have a better chance to win the World Series. In his first eight starts with the Dodgers, Scherzer did something Bauer never has done in his career.
None of Bauer’s teams have won eight consecutive games in which he started.
Scherzer has started eight games for the Dodgers. The Dodgers have won every one. Scherzer’s record over those eight games: 6-0, with an 0.88 earned-run average, five walks and 72 strikeouts.
“We’ve had some good runs from starting pitchers, but I think it’s hard for me to pick any other eight-start run,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I just can’t imagine being any better than this, especially with where we’re at in the season.”
If the season ends with the Dodgers in the wild-card game, they might face the San Diego Padres. The Padres have seen Scherzer twice in three weeks. He faced 51 batters. Five reached base. None scored.
On Sunday, he came within five outs of a perfect game against them.
“It’s just kind of amazing to watch greatness,” Mookie Betts said. “You just really appreciate the best of the best when you get to see it every day.”
Scherzer, acquired in a July 30 trade from the Washington Nationals, leads the major leagues with a 2.17 ERA. He could win his fourth Cy Young Award, a standard reached by four other greats: Roger Clemens, Randy Johnson, Steve Carlton and Greg Maddux. On Sunday, he became the 19th pitcher with 3,000 career strikeouts.
“Everything he does from here on out is going to continue to add to his lore and his legacy,” Roberts said.
For a team to win eight of your starts in a row goes beyond routine excellence. So much is out of your control.
Consider 1988, starring the magical dominance of Orel Hershiser. He did not give up a run in September, en route to setting a major league record of 59 consecutive scoreless innings. The Dodgers still did not win all of those games, losing the last one in 16 innings after Hershiser had put up 10 zeroes.
The Dodgers won the championship that year, carried there by Hershiser’s arm, one legendary swing from Kirk Gibson, and a slightly less remembered swing by Mike Scioscia. Hardly remembered at all: Hershiser started Game 1 and Game 3 of the National League championship series, and the Dodgers lost both games. The bullpen did it.
In 1981, the delightful year of Fernandomania, the Dodgers went 8-0 in Fernando Valenzuela’s first eight starts, 8-9 the rest of the way. All’s well that ends well and — as in 1988 — that year ended in a parade.
This year could too, in what could be the first parade since ’88. Dominant starting pitching can go a long way in October, and the Dodgers are more than Scherzer.
If the Dodgers were to win Wednesday, they would have won eight straight games started by Julio Urías, just like Scherzer. Urías has a 2.98 ERA, and he leads the majors with 17 victories. The Dodgers also have Walker Buehler, third in the league with a 2.32 ERA.
And, as weird as this might sound, they have another future Hall of Famer lined up as their fourth starter. On Monday, Clayton Kershaw is scheduled to return from the injured list and make his first start since July 3.
The Dodgers won 16 consecutive Kershaw starts in 2017, 10 in 2016, nine in 2019.
In 2014, the year he threw his no-hitter, the Dodgers won 13 consecutive Kershaw starts, including an eight-start run in which he went 8-0 with an 0.74 ERA, six walks and 80 strikeouts.
Kershaw is 347 strikeouts from 3,000.
“Hopefully, I’m here,” Scherzer said, “and able to watch his 3,000th as well.”
That could happen in 2023, which for now is the last year of Bauer’s contract. Bauer is on leave for the rest of the season amid sexual assault investigations, his future uncertain beyond then. Kershaw and Scherzer can be free agents after the season.
If Kershaw and Scherzer both are still here in 2023, Bauer could by then become a faint footnote in a storied history.
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