LOS ANGELES -- Wouldn't it be sweet for Alex Wood to come full circle, to open 2017 in the Dodgers' bullpen because he wasn't deemed good enough to start, then close 2017 as a World Series hero by bailing out a beleaguered relief corps because right now he's better than
LOS ANGELES -- Wouldn't it be sweet for Alex Wood to come full circle, to open 2017 in the Dodgers' bullpen because he wasn't deemed good enough to start, then close 2017 as a World Series hero by bailing out a beleaguered relief corps because right now he's better than the rest?
It could happen. Having watched the Astros take a 3-2 lead in this head-spinning Fall Classic, what hasn't happened?
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The Dodgers' home-field advantage brings this Series for the ages back to Los Angeles for Game 6. Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers against Justin Verlander, but Hill's only other World Series start in Game 2 lasted four innings. In Game 2 of the National League Championship Series, Hill's start lasted five innings. In Game 2 of the NL Division Series, he went four innings.
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Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he's "open to pushing" Hill because it's an elimination game, but you don't need to be versed in analytics to see that Roberts doesn't want Hill to face a lineup the third time around.
That was well and good during the regular season, when the bullpen was deep and the division lead huge. A World Series elimination game with fatigued relievers is an entirely different beast.
Enter, Wood -- perhaps literally. On a media conference call on Monday, Roberts said everybody will be available to pitch Tuesday night except Yu Darvish and Clayton Kershaw, so count Wood in.
In the Minute Maid Park bandbox, Wood no-hit the Astros for 5 2/3 innings, even though he was pitching for only the second time in a month. Considering what the Astros' bats did to Darvish and Kershaw over the weekend, Wood might qualify for sainthood, as well as relief duty.
The Dodgers routinely send starters to the bullpen in the postseason. Kershaw did it famously to save the Game 5 clincher in last year's NLDS. Kenta Maeda did it this postseason with remarkable results until Jose Altuve launched a mammoth three-run homer off him Sunday night. For Game 4, Hill went to the bullpen in shabby disguise as some sort of secret weapon to back up Wood, but he wasn't used.
"For sure," Wood said when asked if he'd be up for bullpen duty. "I'll try to get ready as fast as I can. If we go to seven games, I'll be ready."
Roberts needs Wood. In addition to the Altuve home run allowed by Maeda, Brandon Morrow's velocity dropped three mph after pitching in each World Series game, resulting in home runs by George Springer and Carlos Correa in Game 5. Closer Kenley Jansen, who hadn't taken a loss all season, was tagged with one in Game 5 and has allowed two homers in 5 2/3 World Series innings compared to five over the entire regular season. Those multi-inning saves have taken a toll.
The construction of the bullpen for this series hasn't been ideal, either. Brandon McCarthy and Josh Fields are active, but neither has been seen since getting whacked in Game 2. Management chose them over Luis Avilan, who was unavailable for the NLDS with a sore shoulder, and Pedro Baez, who slumped in September.
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.