Facing elimination Tuesday night, the Dodgers edged the Nationals 6-5 to knot the National League Division Series, 2-2, and force a fifth game on Thursday in Washington (5 p.m. PT on FS1).Here are the Dodgers' keys if they hope to win and advance to the NL Championship Series.• Shop for
Facing elimination Tuesday night, the Dodgers edged the Nationals 6-5 to knot the National League Division Series, 2-2, and force a fifth game on Thursday in Washington (5 p.m. PT on FS1).
Here are the Dodgers' keys if they hope to win and advance to the NL Championship Series.
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1. Dave Roberts must manage his bullpen shrewdly
Roberts has done a nice job in his first career playoff series, employing his bench aggressively and committing no egregious tactical errors. But he'll face his biggest challenge yet in Game 5, when he must cobble together nine innings from starter Rich Hill on three days' rest, possibly rookie Julio Urías and a tired bullpen.
"It's going to be a collection of arms," Roberts said after Game 4.
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Hill has little experience pitching on short rest and might not last long. Roberts will have to decide when to pull the lefty and whether to turn to Urias or his middle relievers. It's a delicate situation, fraught with opportunities for Roberts to slip up.
Maybe Hill will make Roberts' job easy and throw seven innings. More likely, though, the manager will have some tough, important decisions to make.
2. The Dodgers' bench must come through
In one sense, it's easy to predict how Game 5 will play out. With righty Max Scherzer on the mound for the Nationals, Roberts will stack his lineup with lefty hitters. Then, when Scherzer comes out in the late innings, Washington will barrage the Dodgers with southpaw relievers, forcing L.A. to empty its bench.
Righties Yasiel Puig, Howie Kendrick, Carlos Ruiz and Charlie Culberson probably won't start, but many of them will end up in the game, likely facing one of the Nats' lefty trio of Sammy Solís, Marc Rzepczynski and Oliver Pérez.
The Dodgers' deep bench will allow them some favorable matchups Thursday. The righties will have to take advantage.
3. L.A. must continue to control Washington's running game
Stolen bases were a large factor in the Nationals' success in 2016, especially once Trea Turner was called up midseason. As a team, Washington swiped 121 bags, tied for sixth most in the Majors, with Turner accounting for 33 of those steals.
The Dodgers haven't entirely neutralized the Nationals' speed in the NLDS, allowing four stolen bases in as many games, but they also haven't let Turner and company run wild. And in the seventh inning of Game 1, catcher Yasmani Grandal caught Daniel Murphy stealing to thwart a potential Nationals rally and preserve a 4-3 Dodgers win.
That Washington hasn't dominated on the basepaths is a credit to Grandal and to the Dodgers' pitchers, who have kept runners close and been quick to the plate. If Turner -- or maybe Bryce Harper or Danny Espinosa -- reaches base in a key spot Thursday, L.A. needs to hold him where he is.
Alex Putterman is a reporter for MLB.com based in Washington.