LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers know they will open the National League Championship Series at home, with Game 1 set for 5:08 p.m. PT on Saturday at Dodger Stadium. They also will be able to set their starting rotation exactly how they want, unlike their opponent, which will be determined on Thursday night.
“Being able to set your rotation, not having to travel the first two games of the series, I think they’re huge advantages. That’s the byproduct of having the season that we had,” manager Dave Roberts said Wednesday. “To be at home watching games and seeing how things play out, we’re in a pretty good place.”
The Dodgers will go with Clayton Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLCS, which is no surprise, but Roberts wouldn’t reveal the rotation order beyond that.
The Cubs and Nationals, on the other hand, are in scramble mode, not only needing to win Thursday to advance, but also dealing with the aftermath of Tuesday’s rainout which could affect their NLCS rotation.
For instance, Stephen Strasburg pitched seven scoreless innings for the Nationals on Wednesday and has a sub-1.00 ERA since the All-Star break, and wouldn’t be available to start in the NLCS until Game 3 on Tuesday. Max Scherzer started Monday, which would put him in line for a potential Game 1 start on Saturday, but that’s if he’s not used in relief in Game 5 of the NLDS on Thursday.
As of Wednesday night, the Nationals haven’t announced their Game 5 starter but it’s between Gio Gonzalez and Tanner Roark, both of whom might pitch on Thursday.
“We're going to make up our mind, see the condition of everybody and like I said, I'm not sure,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said Wednesday. “I would venture to say, yeah, Tanner or Gio, or both.”
The Cubs had starter Jake Arrieta throw 90 pitches on Wednesday, and Jon Lester threw 55 more pitches in 3⅔ innings of relief. Chicago will start Kyle Hendricks on Thursday, and will have starter Jose Quintana ready in relief.
“Everybody's available tomorrow,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said Wednesday. “So it will start with Kyle, and Q is ready tomorrow to back up like Jon did tonight and the entire bullpen.”
If the Cubs win Thursday and use Quintana, they would basically have to have John Lackey start Game 1 of the NLCS, then turn to Lester on three days rest (after his 55-pitch Wednesday) in Game 2.
It’s not an ideal situation for either team, but that’s the advantage the Dodgers have by finishing with the best record in baseball, and for sweeping their first-round series.
Asked how many innings he’d like to see Game 5 of Cubs-Nationals last, Roberts said, “It can’t be high enough.”