The Dodgers’ win on Tuesday ensured there would be a Game 5 of the National League Championship Series against the Braves. That means two more games at Dodger Stadium, though both teams plan to use only one starting pitcher over the two days.
Julio Urías starts for the Dodgers in Game 4, with LA’s bullpen game coming in Game 5. The Braves are stacking relievers on Wednesday before turning to Max Fried, their Game 1 starter, on Thursday.
It’s a big 48 hours for bullpens.
So let’s take a look at where the Dodgers bullpen stands heading into Game 4.
Dodgers postseason bullpen usage
Walker Buehler lasting only 11 outs on Tuesday taxed the bullpen, with eight pitchers following him in Game 3’s comeback win. Alex Vesia escaped Buehler’s jam by getting the final out of the fourth inning, continuing the rookie left-hander’s steady ascent. The Dodgers got five outs from Evan Phillips and two more from lefty Justin Bruihl, both of whom joined the team in August and were just added to the roster for the NLCS.
“Those relievers came in, and they won us that ball game,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “Going into tomorrow, we stayed away from Blake [Treinen], Brusdar [Graterol], so we’ve got a couple leverage guys that are fresh. They not only helped us win today’s game, but they helped us win tomorrow’s game too.”
The Dodgers this round are carrying 10 relievers. That includes Tony Gonsolin, who is nominally a starter, but he’s being used more now in relief. Roberts said Game 5 will be more of a “traditional bullpen game,” which is a funny phrase in itself. What it means is there will be no bulk pitcher. Gonsolin had the bulk role in Game 1 but only recorded five outs.
Heading into Game 4, Kenley Jansen, Vesia, and Joe Kelly have each pitched in three of the last four days, though both Vesia and Kelly only faced one batter on Tuesday. Treinen and Graterol are the most rested, having last pitched on Sunday. For Treinen, Game 2 was his fifth appearance in seven days.
Though 10 relievers are active, the main bullpen rotation consists of seven pitchers, and the work has been spread pretty evenly between the group. Jansen, Treinen, Kelly, and Graterol have pitched six times this postseason, in a two-week stretch. Phil Bickford, Vesia, and back-to-back starter Corey Knebel have pitched five times each.
At least eighteen innings will need to be covered by the Dodgers in Games 4 and 5. Getting Urías to go as deep as possible on Wednesday will go a long way in setting up how the two days for Los Angeles.
Urías pitched five or more innings in 31 of his career-high 32 starts during the regular season, including in each of his last 17 games. He averaged 5.8 innings per start. But in his first two postseason games, he pitched just five and four innings. Roberts said he doesn’t think Urías will be negatively impacted by pitching an inning in relief in Sunday’s Game 2.
“I feel good where he’s at, and I’m going to watch him,” Roberts said. “As long as he’s being efficient and throwing the baseball well, we’re going to let him run.”