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Rested Dodgers find familiar pattern heading into World Series

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MLB: NLCS-Los Angeles Dodgers workouts Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers have followed a familiar pattern the last three weeks, one they hope will continue through the World Series, enjoying the spoils of rest and home field advantage throughout October.

The script has been the same since the end of the regular season:

  • Win a game on the road (Oct. 1 in Colorado, Oct. 9 in Arizona, Oct. 19 in Chicago)
  • Return home and have four days off, filled with workouts and simulated games
  • Wait to find out the opponent, pushed to the hilt in the previous round (Arizona in the wild card game, Chicago in five games in the NLDS, Houston in seven games in the ALCS)
  • Start a series with the first two games at Dodger Stadium

So far, so good for the Dodgers, who are 7-1 this postseason and have outscored their opponents 48-19.

“To sort of come back home and reset physically and mentally, that has been a huge benefit to us,” Dave Roberts said. “As far as the sharpness, we’ve done a good job with the coaches, trying to simulate game situations, and fared pretty well.”

The shortened series have helped the starting rotation in that Clayton Kershaw hasn’t had to pitch on three days rest, and has been progressively better in each of his starts, including allowing one run in six innings in Thursday’s NLCS clincher in Game 5 against the Cubs.

Dodgers pitchers have thrown 1,004 pitches in eight games this postseason, an average of 125.5 per game, topping out at 143 pitches in Game 2 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks. Their opponents have thrown 1,350 pitches, an average of 168.8 per game, never fewer than 154 in any game.

The Astros, who have played three more games than the Dodgers this postseason, have thrown 1,556 pitches, an average of 141.5 per game.

2017 postseason pitching

Split Dodgers Opponent
Split Dodgers Opponent
Total pitches 1,004 1,350
Pitches/game 125.5 168.8
Starters pitches 658 676
Starters IP 42⅓ 33⅔
Starters ERA 3.40 6.42
Bullpen pitches 346 674
Bullpen IP 28⅔ 35
Bullpen ERA 0.94 5.14

However, the Astros’ pitching staff will be in much better relative shape than the Diamondbacks and Cubs were heading into their Dodgers matchups. Arizona used its top two starting pitchers in the wild card game on Oct. 4, then had one day off before beginning the NLDS, with Robbie Ray starting Game 2 on just two days rest after a 34-pitch, 2⅓-inning relief appearance. He pitched just 4⅓ innings against the Dodgers.

The Cubs were exhausted after a give-game NLDS that included a Game 4 rainout, and also had just one day off, and a cross-country flight, before the NLCS. They started Jon Lester in Game 2 on just three days rest after a 55-pitch, 3⅔-inning relief outing. Lester lasted just 4⅔ innings, the shortest postseason start of his career.

There are two days off between the end of the ALCS and the World Series, giving the Astros an extra day. Plus, their beleaguered playoff bullpen — a 5.18 ERA, 1.364 WHIP, and 14 walks in 33 innings — wasn’t overly taxed in the final two games against the Yankees. In Game 6, Brad Peacock and Ken Giles each pitched an inning, and in Game 7 it was just Lance McCullers Jr. for four innings.

Dallas Keuchel will start Game 1 on five days rest for Houston, with Justin Verlander going in Game 2 on regular rest. In other words, both the Dodgers and Astros are in good shape heading into the Fall Classic.

But what about the long layoff for the Dodgers?

They won the NL pennant on Thursday, two days before the Astros clinched the AL pennant.

Last year, the Indians won the pennant three days before the Cubs, then lost the World Series. In fact, the team with more rest has lost the last eight World Series. But this is cyclical.

David Schoenfield at ESPN last year researched this, and though 10 of the last 11 teams with more time in between the LCS and World Series have lost, 10 of the previous 11 more rested teams won the World Series.

“I firmly believe that every season, and every team is different,” Roberts said. “The way the CS played out, I wouldn’t change a thing. It set up well for us, and we’ll be ready to go on Tuesday.”