WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers named Rich Hill their starter for tonight's winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series in Washington (8 p.m. ET/5 PT, FS1). But there's a good chance he'll be the club's "starting pitcher" in title only.Los Angeles is fully prepared to turn Thursday into a
WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers named Rich Hill their starter for tonight's winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series in Washington (8 p.m. ET/5 PT, FS1). But there's a good chance he'll be the club's "starting pitcher" in title only.
Los Angeles is fully prepared to turn Thursday into a bullpen game, and manager Dave Roberts confirmed as much following Tuesday's 6-5 victory when he said "it's going to be a collection of arms" pitching for the Dodgers in Game 5.
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The veteran left-hander Hill has never started on short rest in his career and has spent the past two months battling a blister on his pitching hand. With that in mind, the Dodgers will be ready to call on their bullpen at the first sign of trouble.
"It's that time of year; nobody gets off-days," said veteran reliever Joe Blanton, who pitched 1 1/3 crucial scoreless frames on Tuesday. "Maybe the starting pitcher that threw the day before -- and that's it. Guys are willing to do whatever, whether it's multiple innings as a reliever or one out. There might be three, four relievers used in an inning. ... It's going to be all hands on deck."
Having already used Clayton Kershaw to much success in Game 4 of the NLDS, Los Angeles doesn't have a singular option who matches up with Nationals Game 5 starter -- and NL Cy Young Award candidate -- Max Scherzer.
The thing is, the Dodgers don't need a singular effort to beat Scherzer. They have an off-day Wednesday, and a potential off-day Friday, meaning Roberts has just about every pitcher on his staff -- with the likely exception of Kershaw -- at his disposal.
"He's done a really good job putting us in the right spots, matching us up with who he thinks we'll do well against," left-hander Grant Dayton said of Roberts. "The Nationals' lineup is a really tough lineup, so I think he's doing a real good job with the matchups. Then, it's up to us to execute."
In Games 1 and 2 in Washington, the Dodgers' relief corps did exactly that before faltering twice in Los Angeles. During the regular season, the Dodgers' bullpen posted a 3.35 ERA, the lowest mark in the Majors.
Los Angeles relievers also combined for 590 2/3 innings, which led the big leagues -- meaning the Dodgers are well versed in navigating multiple high-leverage frames.
"We're definitely ready for anything," Dayton said. "If it's a bullpen game, it doesn't matter. We stay ready the whole game. This is the most intense baseball I've ever played, and for a lot of the guys, it's the same thing."
Roberts said it's "fair" to expect both Hill and rookie left-hander Julio Urías to pitch in Game 5. But if the Dodgers find themselves in a big moment early on, it's possible they play a matchup game.
There is, after all, very little margin for error in winner-take-all baseball -- especially against Scherzer and a Nats relief corps whose ERA was second only to the Dodgers this year.
"The Nationals won't quit, and for us to win the World Series, [we've] just got to fight and not let anything outside bother us," said closer Kenley Jansen, who responded to a rocky Game 3 with a perfect ninth inning on Tuesday. "We each just have to do our part and trust the process, all 25 guys."
AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.