Tony Gonsolin will start for the Dodgers, and though he has a perfectly capable starting pitcher all season — by some measures, their best — but for Game 2 he figures to be limited, since he just pitched on Sunday. The givens are that Gonsolin and Dustin May will pitch this evening. It’s possible that Julio Urías, who like those two is also only on two days rest.
A grueling NLCS and a rallying finish forced this World Series pitching scramble on the Dodgers by circumstance. Had they not deployed their pitchers in such a way against the Braves, the Dodgers might not even be here to play the Rays. How often the Dodgers deploy this shared workload strategy for the remainder of the series will be by choice.
Aesthetically, I’m not a fan of the opener or a bullpen game, which is not to say the technique can’t be effective. I just grew up watching starting pitchers start and go deep into games, and I’m not sure I’ll ever give up that soft spot in my heart for that style of baseball. The more pitchers you call on in any specific game, the more likely you’ll bring in someone who just doesn’t have it on that day.
So, I think the Dodgers should wait to use Urías as a starter in Game 4. He’s been excellent this postseason, and can go five or six innings, especially on what would be five days rest.
And the Dodgers will have Brusdar Graterol, Blake Treinen, and Kenley Jansen all available in relief, all three on two days rest, with an off day coming Thursday.
But I understand the temptation to change things up.
The Dodgers pitching plan at the moment has Walker Buehler starting in Game 3, on five days rest, and Clayton Kershaw in Game 5, on four days rest, with Buehler available to start Game 7 on four days rest if needed.
NLCS Game 7 usage
That leaves the even-numbered games to fill innings. In a perfect world, each of Gonsolin, Urías, and May would start one game and last two times through Tampa Bay’s lineup, maybe a little longer depending on the game. But this is not an ideal scenario. Gonsolin is only on two days rest for his start on Wednesday night, and May hasn’t been used in more than two innings at any point in the last 23 days.
The Rays in recent years have found success in using an opener, even helping to bring the strategy somewhat into the mainstream. They have three traditional starters to rely on this postseason in Tyler Glasnow, Blake Snell, and Charlie Morton, and haven’t had to use the opener as much.
But the whole point for the Rays, not just with the opener but with other strategies, isn’t about aesthetics, it’s just about finding ways to get outs. And they’ve proven adept at getting outs for the last three years, at least.
So it would be fitting if the Dodgers flip the script a little bit against the Rays, even if at times it feels like they are being too cute by half.
Where I start to get on board with the plan to use Gonsolin, May, and Urías in multiple games is with the off days. There are two off days built into the World Series, unlike the previous rounds, and it sets up to isolate each of the even-numbered games in pods.
Game 2 is followed by an off day, Game 4 is in between starts by rotation anchors Buehler and Kershaw, and Game 6 is preceded by an off day, which means any sort of shenanigans don’t necessarily tax the rest of the relievers. If by chance all three of Gonsolin, May, and Urías are used in each game, all three appearances would be on two days rest.
If by some chance game circumstances dictate one of the swingman trio not be used in one of the even games — a blowout, one way or another — that opens them to be used in relief in a different game.
Put another way, if Gonsolin, Urías, and May are expected to pitch somewhere between 15-18 innings in total for the series, I’m not sure it matters all that much how they are divvied up.
Things to watch
Snell induced a swing on a pitch outside the zone 35.5% of the time during the regular season, the 10th-highest O-Swing% among all pitchers with at least 50 innings. As a team, the Dodgers’ 26.5% O-Swing% was the lowest in the majors.
The Dodgers have stolen eight bases in eight attempts this postseason, half of them by Mookie Betts. The franchise record for team steals in one postseason is 13, set in 16 games in both 1981 and 2018, and in 12 games by the 1988 team. After three steals in Game 1, the Dodgers’ record to shoot for is nine, their most in a single World Series, set in 1965, including three each by Maury Wills and Willie Davis.
Under Dave Roberts, the Dodgers have stolen 41 bases in 50 attempts (82 percent) in 60 postseason games.
The Dodgers are hitting .316/.412/.595 against left-handed pitching this postseason, with 11 home runs in 187 plate appearances. Snell throws left-handed.