The Game: Washington Nationals @ Los Angeles Dodgers, NLDS Game 4
The Time: 5:00 PM EDT
The Place: Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles
The Channel: FS1
The Starters: We have no idea!
Even before yesterday’s Nationals’ win there was speculation on what strategy Dave Roberts and Dusty Baker would take with respect to starting pitching in this afternoon’s contest. Would the loser of Game 3 go to their ace on short rest? How would the winner counter? Well, the Nats won and now Dave Roberts has to decide if he should go back to Clayton Kershaw on three days rest. I suspect that Dusty Baker is waiting to see what Roberts does before making his own decision, though his decision is more traditional: which back-end starter/swingman to use: Joe Ross or Reynaldo Lopez.
As I wrote earlier today, you have to assume that Roberts will go with Kershaw. For one thing, Kershaw reportedly went through his day-before-a-start routine at Dodger Stadium yesterday, so he’s ready. For another, the other option would be rookie Julio Urias. For as much as Urias improved as the season wore on, how many managers hand the ball to a 20-year-old with 77 major league innings under his belt in an elimination game? Especially with Kershaw sitting right there. The biggest caveat here is that Kershaw worked harder than he usually has to in Game 1 and, of course, missed a huge chunk of the season with an injury and we can’t know for sure how he’s feeling right now. My guess, however, is that by late morning we hear that Kershaw will go with Urias warming up early in case the short rest for the ace is seen to take its toll. For what it’s worth, Kershaw has done this short rest thing in the playoffs before, and he’s done it pretty well.
As for Washington, Ross has been the better pitcher all year, but he has been lit up by lefties to the tune of .317/.385/.439 while Lopez has been harder on lefties than on righties, allowing a line of .193/.291/.375 against them. Given how mightily the Dodgers have struggled against lefties all season, and given how many of their important hitters are left-handed, it’ll be tempting for Dusty Baker to play the matchups. I suspect he will.
It’s win or stay home for the Dodgers. For the Nationals, a win not only moves them into the NLCS for the first time ever, but it allows them to start that series with Max Scherzer on normal rest.