The Los Angeles Dodgers advanced to their second consecutive National League Championship Series on Monday after completing a three-game sweep of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Dodgers’ opponent is not yet known, as the Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals haven taken their NL Division Series to a fourth game. The matchup took an interesting turn on Tuesday when Game 4 was rained out and rescheduled for Wednesday afternoon.
At first glance, the postponement appeared to have benefited the Nationals most. With the extra day of preparation, many assumed the club would start Stephen Strasburg over Tanner Roark, but manager Dusty Baker quickly downplayed that possibility.
With Strasburg battling an illness, the Nationals initially planned to stick with Roark for Wednesday’s elimination game. However, the club reversed course and will send Strasburg to the hill after all.
The Nationals make out as winners with this news. Had there not have been a rainout on Tuesday, the thought of Strasburg starting in Game 4 would have been nonexistent.
But the biggest winner in all of this is the Dodgers. They get five days of rest leading up to Game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday, while their potential opponent will only get up to three days to recover from a draining series.
Let’s review each scenario for the Dodgers with three days leading up to the next round of play.
Cubs win in four games
For the sake of nitpicking, this is probably the least ideal scenario for Los Angeles. With a win over the Nationals on Wednesday, the Cubs will obviously get an extra day of rest to reset their starting rotation accordingly for the NLCS.
While it’s a given that the Dodgers will start Clayton Kershaw in Game 1, and presumably Rich Hill in Game 2, it isn’t clear yet who the Cubs would trot out to the mound.
The only unavailable starting pitcher for Chicago would be Jake Arrieta, who’s starting Game 4 of the NLDS on Wednesday. The club could conceivably start him in Game 2 on normal rest, but there are other more-rested arms ahead of him.
That leaves Jose Quintana, who last started on Monday in Game 3. Another left-hander in Jon Lester, who appeared in Game 2 against the Nationals and Kyle Hendricks, tossed seven shutout innings.
Either of the three options are solid for the Cubs given the circumstances, but the Dodgers hold the advantage in terms of rest for their group as a whole.
Cubs win in five games
If the Cubs end up playing an extra day and win the NLDS in five games, their rotation structure for the next round appears more bleak.
Should they hold off on starting Arrieta until Game 3, the Cubs will be short of another starting pitcher for the first two games.
More likely than not, the team would start either Hendricks or Lester in a potential Game 5 against the Nationals, meaning the Dodgers would face one of the two, plus Quintana this weekend.
Nationals win in five games
If the Nationals manage to win back-to-back games against the Cubs, it would be their first postseason series win since relocating to Washington D.C. in 2005.
With Strasburg now starting Game 4 and Gonzalez likely following him in Game 5, the Nationals are looking at a potential combination of Max Scherzer and a well-rested Roark this weekend in Los Angeles.
Scherzer was dominant in his Game 3 start against the Cubs but in all likelihood isn’t at full strength, given his hamstring injury at the end of September.
And while Roark is a solid back-of-the-end rotation arm, he isn’t at the level of a Strasburg or Gonzalez. So for the Dodgers’ case, they make out quite well in this scenario.