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LA pitching puzzle 'hard to figure out'

@kengurnick
October 20, 2020

A conventional schedule, with scheduled off-days, returns for the World Series. But don’t expect conventional pitching strategy from the Dodgers to follow. “I don’t know what conventional is,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Monday after announcing that Clayton Kershaw would start Game 1 on Tuesday and Walker Buehler would

A conventional schedule, with scheduled off-days, returns for the World Series. But don’t expect conventional pitching strategy from the Dodgers to follow.

“I don’t know what conventional is,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said on Monday after announcing that Clayton Kershaw would start Game 1 on Tuesday and Walker Buehler would start Game 3 on Friday.

“Beyond Game 1, it’s easy to see Walker starting Game 3. Then outside of that, it’ll be kind of hard to figure out. We’ve got to still think through Game 2 and how that kind of unfolds, and that should kind of bleed into Game 4, as well.”

Game Date Result Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 20 LAD 8, TB 3 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 21 TB 6, LAD 4 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 23 LAD 6, TB 2 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 24 TB 8, LAD 7 Watch
Gm 5 Oct. 25 LAD 4, TB 2 Watch
Gm 6 Oct. 27 LAD 3, TB 1 Watch

Roberts explained that everything else is undecided. Even with Kershaw and Buehler also lined up for Games 5 and 7, the undecided includes how Games 2, 4 and 6 would be navigated; what roles will be given to swingmen Julio Urías, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin; and how late-inning leverage situations would be distributed now that closer Kenley Jansen has returned to form.

With seven games in seven days for the National League Championship Series, Roberts started Buehler twice and Kershaw only once because of the latter’s back spasms. Gonsolin started Game 2, Urías Game 3 and May Games 5 and 7 as an opener.

“Considering who’s rested leading up to Game 2, we have guys that are starters, but you still have to have guys rested and in the right spots for Game 2 with the days off,” said Roberts.

On Sunday, May and Gonsolin pitched one and two-plus innings, respectively; Blake Treinen pitched for the third consecutive day; and Brusdar Graterol pitched one inning before Urías pitched the final three-innings to earn the win.

“Even with the off-day today coming into Game 1, we’re still kind of been taxed, as far as usage in the ’pen,” Roberts said. “For Clayton to start and go deep would certainly help the usage get realigned.”

Urías has proved to be the most versatile and reliable pitcher Roberts has, but having thrown three innings Sunday eliminates him as a true starter for Game 2 and could result in a bullpen game that night, like in Game 7 on Sunday.

“Having options to cover that game is big, because we don’t have somebody that’s fully rested that can give you 90 to 100 pitches for Game 2,” said Roberts. “So, you have to be creative. Having Julio to have done both roles and thrived certainly makes us feel a little bit better.”

Based on the NLCS, the Dodgers are feeling better about Jansen having worked through mechanical issues. After Game 7, however, they no doubt have concerns about rookies May and Gonsolin, who pitched like rookies and combined for only nine outs when management was hoping for double that.

World Series Game 1 FAQ | Position-by-position analysis

Treinen proved to be a bullpen workhorse in high-leverage innings, getting more work than Graterol, Joe Kelly or Pedro Báez.

Although Jansen was used to pitch the ninth inning in Games 5 and 6, both times he was facing the bottom of the Atlanta batting order. While it wasn’t specifically addressed, matchups might have been a deciding factor.

A different opponent and different part of the batting order could result in a different pitcher in the ninth inning this week. Roberts has said there are no set roles by inning.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.