For the Dodgers it could be crucial.
The Dodgers have done it and clinched their fourth consecutive National League West title. Now that they have wrapped up the NL West the club turns their attention to the postseason. Setting the postseason roster, the rotation and knocking the Giants out of the playoffs take over as top priorities in the club’s final games of the regular season. Now the report is that the Dodgers may not pitch Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill on short rest in the NLDS which could mean neither of them would pitch a potential game 4 or game 5. I honestly don’t understand how that would allow them to advance.
I understand the injury limitations on both pitchers and would never want to see either of them risk their careers. Obviously Kershaw’s herniated disc is a lot more serious than Hill’s blister problem; however both pitchers have been placed on strict pitch counts over the final weeks of the season in order to keep them healthy.
This is the playoffs though and if the Dodgers have a do or die game 5, one of them has to start. However with the current format neither hurler will have to start on short rest if they pitch two games. The Dodgers have already set their rotation for games 1-3 of the NLDS. Clayton Kershaw will of course pitch in the opening game with Rich Hill following in game 2. Kenta Maeda will pitch game 3 and the Dodgers are pretty sure Julio Urias can pitch a game 4. If Urias can pitch game 4 then the club won’t have to worry about throwing Kershaw or Hill on short rest. As long as Urias pitches game 4 then Kersh and or Hill can start on regular 5 days of rest in a game 5.
There are two off-days during a 5-game playoff series. One off day is after game 2 and the second is after game 4. The real question is how much do you trust Urias in a game 4? Last season the Dodgers used 3 pitchers during their 2015 NLDS against the Mets. Kershaw started games 1, and 4. Zack Greinke started games 2 and 5 and Brett Anderson started game 3. The club did not use a fourth starter. Many people believed that not having that fourth starter, or in this case a third pitcher since Anderson is so bad cost them the series.
I think that the decision will depend on what the outcome of the series is by the fourth game. If the Dodgers are trailing 2-1 in the series than they are going to have to pitch Kershaw or Hill to keep their season alive. If they are ahead 2-1 than it might be ok to give Urias a start and save Kershaw for a potential game 5.
I know this though; the Dodgers have to put out their best in every game if they want to be able to advance to the World Series this season. If the medical staff has cleared Kershaw and Hill to pitch than the Dodgers have to take their expert opinions into consideration. There is always going to be risk with injuries but this is the playoffs.
The Dodgers haven’t won anything in 28 years. The World Series drought is becoming a huge monkey on the Dodger’s back and it’s starting to anger most of the fan base. We’re sick of it. It’s time for everyone to suck it up. This is not the time to use kid gloves with anyone. It should be all hands on deck. We don’t want to have to endure a fourth consecutive postseason loss. Again this means putting out your best pitchers on the mound and if that means starting Kershaw or Hill on short rest than that’s what you have to do to keep the season going. You do it.
This season the Dodger’s depth is more profound. Hill has pitched very well and could be very dangerous in the postseason. Maeda is solid and now they have Urias that can pitch a game 4. Combine these guys with Kershaw and the Dodgers have some very solid pitching. I think they have enough to get through the playoffs as long as they don’t get spooked. Sometimes the needs of the many greatly outweigh the needs of the few or the one. If the Dodgers are on the verge of elimination then you have to use Kershaw, or at the least Hill. Who else would you use?
Will it be enough to defeat the Washington Nationals in the NLDS? Whatever combination they use, just don’t start Ross Stripling in a game 5 with the season on the line please. That’s all I ask.