Back in 1948, the NL pennant-winning Boston Braves leaned heavily on two aces: Warren Spahn and Johnny Sain. The Braves’ dependence upon them led Boston Post sports editor Gerald Hern to write this little poem:
First we’ll use Spahn
then we’ll use Sain
Then an off day
followed by rain
Back will come Spahn
followed by Sain
by two days of rain.
For the 2016 Dodgers, it’s kinda like this:
First we’ll use Kershaw
Then we’ll use Jansen
Then we’ll engage in a whole bunch of dancin’
Then we’ll start Kershaw
Followed by Jansen
And maybe Rich Hill unless blisters need lancin’
Eh, I’ll work on it.
Unlike the ALCS, this one is still a series with any number of possible outcomes. We’re tied at one after Miguel Montero‘s heroism in Game 1 and Clayton Kershaw‘s dominance in Game 2 and now we get to see what the back end of the Dodgers rotation is made of.
Rich Hill is not a back end starter, not this year anyway, but he has as many questions about him as a number 4 starter might have in such a game. Those deal primarily with his durability. The Dodgers won his last start, Game 5 of the NLDS against the Nationals, but he only pitched two and two-thirds innings and the victory required Kenley Jansen working to the extreme extent of his capacity and Clayton Kershaw coming in in relief. That’s not going to happen here. Prior to that his woes with a blister on his finger have cut into several starts and had him shelved for long stretches this season. The Dodgers want to win this game, of course, but another short start from Hill will cause Dave Roberts to use his bullpen liberally and that will have some big consequences when Julio Urias and Kenta Maeda come back around in the rotation.
The Cubs starter has far fewer questions about him. He has faced the Dodgers twice. The last time he faced them in Dodger Stadium all he did was toss a no-hitter against them in 2015. The last time he faced them at all, in Wrigley Field back on May 31, he tossed seven shutout innings. The Dodgers have their work cut out for them against the reigning Cy Young Award winner.
The ALCS seems all but over. This one feels like it’s just beginning.