LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers still have not announced their Game 4 starter and aren’t expected to do so until Tuesday, weighing the pros and cons of when and where to start Clayton Kershaw or Julio Urias, but ultimately it likely won’t matter if they continue to hit like they have in the National League Division Series.
The Nationals lead the best-of-5 series 2-1, with the Dodgers so far averaging 3.0 runs per game and hitting just .220/.304/.360 as a team.
“I thought there were some good at-bats in there,” manager Dave Roberts said after the game. “Again, I think that we hit some balls, we squared up some baseballs, and you know, right at those guys. It could have been a different game.”
Just like the 2013 NLCS might have been different. Or the 2014 NLDS. Or the 2015 NLDS. The Dodgers are one loss away from a fourth straight “could have been different” year.
To advance, the Dodgers will need two wins, one in Game 4 on Tuesday and another on Thursday in Game 5 in Washington.
“The thought of having Julio pitch at home versus the road is something that we’re thinking through, and what gives us the best chance to win two games,” Roberts said. “Obviously, you have to win tomorrow to win on Thursday.”
Both Kershaw and Urias are prepared to start Tuesday if needed.
For Kershaw, it would mark a fourth straight year of starting Game 4 of the NLDS on three days rest, and he has pitched well with 1.89 ERA, 23 strikeouts and four walks in 19 innings in those games.
“We’ve had conversations,” Roberts said. “I think Clayton is open to whatever we feel and he’s just waiting for the go ahead, so he’s prepared either way.”
In addition to considering Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 or extra rest in Game 5, there is the choice between rookie Julio Urias making his first postseason start at home or in a Game 5 on the road.
There is also the fact that Game 4 is the third game in three days for these clubs, thanks to Saturday’s postponement of Game 2, and the Dodgers bullpen has been used for 9⅔ innings on Sunday and Monday, with five relievers (everyone but Joe Blanton and Kenley Jansen) pitching in each of the last two days.
Rich Hill at least in theory might be available on short rest out of the bullpen to back up Urias in Game 5, though it sounds like the Dodgers would rather not use Hill in that fashion.
“I know that he’s open to the idea of going on short rest, but it’s something that he hasn’t done.”
Hill did start and pitch three innings once on three days rest in 2009, but that was following a relief outing in which he faced only four batters.
Rich Hill said that he can pitch on short rest out of the bullpen if the club starts Urias in Game 5.— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) October 11, 2016
For their part, the Nationals haven’t announced their Game 4 starter either, likely either Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez.
“Mike [Rizzo, Nationals general manage] and I were just talking about that,” Washington manager Dusty Baker said after Monday’s game. “We haven’t really decided yet.”
One more thing: as of right now, we don’t even know when Game 4 will be played at Dodger Stadium, though at least that news will probably come Monday night. If the Cubs finish off the Giants in San Francisco in Game 3, the Dodgers will play at 5:08 p.m. PT on Tuesday.
If the Giants stay alive, that series keeps its prime time slot, pushing the Dodgers-Nationals back to also-ran status, with a 2:05 p.m. start time.