Hill starting Game 4; 2-3 still undecided

October 2nd, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- In a record-breaking year, the Dodgers pulled off something else on Tuesday no club in recent history has done.

They announced their starting pitcher for Game 4 of the best-of-five National League Division Series against Washington (), but not the starters for Games 1, 2 or 3. Manager Dave Roberts said the decisions were made and the players were told, but he wouldn’t go further -- though the veil of mystery was partially lifted on Wednesday when righty was named the Game 1 starter.

“There’s not a whole lot of upside to do that,” said manager Dave Roberts. “We’ll keep it under wraps.”

There were, however, strong indications that would start Game 2 and Game 3.

The Dodgers want Kershaw to start Game 2 so he will be fully rested to pitch in relief (or even start) if there is a Game 5. Kershaw pitched an inning of relief on Sunday, three days after a six-inning start.

“The exercise was good for him, to heighten the intensity of his bullpen day,” said Roberts. “But also, appreciating the fact that there might be a time in the DS and CS to come out of the ‘pen. He’s done it before, but appreciating that, it made sense to us. But it’s certainly not ideal.”

As for postseason relief, Kershaw is proven. He saved the Game 5 clincher of the 2016 NLDS in Washington, came on too late to rescue the Dodgers from their Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series despite pitching four scoreless innings and pitched a perfect ninth inning in last year’s Game 7 pennant-clincher in Milwaukee.

Management’s quandary was picking between Buehler and Ryu to start Game 1 and also be in line to start Game 5, if necessary. Choosing Buehler means going with his potential dominance over Ryu’s consistency. Game 3 will be in Washington, so one factor might have been Ryu’s poise on the road, with the memory from Game 3 of last year’s NLDS in Atlanta getting away from Buehler.

With Buehler getting the call, the Dodgers will be giving the Game 1 start to a pitcher who said he was still tinkering with his mechanics in his final tuneup in San Francisco on Friday, when Buehler allowed two runs with four walks in five innings.

Management also would be asking Ryu, their NL Cy Young Award candidate, to pitch only on the road in this series, even though he was 10-1 with a 1.93 ERA at home, compared to 4-4, 2.72 on the road.

“Each one of those guys pitches better at home,” said Roberts. “The splits matter, but I think we’re digging a little bit deeper than just the home and road [splits].”

Ryu started twice against Washington, allowing only one run in 14 2/3 innings, pitching equally effectively in Washington and Los Angeles. Buehler, in his two starts against the Nationals, allowed four earned runs in 12 1/3 innings. All four runs were allowed in a 9-2 loss in Washington. Kershaw started once against the Nationals, allowing two runs in six innings on the road. Hill started once against Washington and allowed three runs in five innings at home.

Roberts: Dodgers not 'sleep-walking into the postseason'

Roberts addressed the theory that the Dodgers, by virtue of their runaway division win, were not battle-tested over the second half the way their upcoming opponents were.

“Guys are ready to start playing playoff baseball,” said Roberts. “We understand the importance of these games coming up. But I think the way we attacked the games of the last couple weeks shows we’re prepared for the postseason and not sort of thinking these games are meaningless and we’re sleep-walking into the postseason. We’re ready to go.”

Roberts confident in Jansen as closer

Roberts also issued yet another vote of confidence for closer Kenley Jansen.

“I know Kenley is our closer,” Roberts said. “I want him to have the ball at the end of the game.”