Through the first four games of the National League Division Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Washington Nationals, neither team has won back-to-back games, meaning a decisive Game 5 at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night is necessary.
The Dodgers were looking to close out the series in Game 4 at Nationals Park and jumped out to an early lead when Justin Turner hit a first-inning home run off Max Scherzer. That was it for the offense though as the three-time Cy Young Award winner settled in and the Nationals offense broke through against the Dodgers bullpen.
Washington’s 6-1 victory to tie the series at two games apiece. Clayton Kershaw was available to pitch out of the bullpen for the Dodgers if they needed him, but with the Nationals taking the lead, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts figured it was best to save him for Game 5.
“Yeah, obviously this game Clayton was available and it was more of a situation sixth, seventh, eighth, potentially ninth inning tied or with the lead,” Roberts said.
“And so obviously the game got away from us and so now to preserve him and to have him ready to go, whatever we need from him, for Game 5, is certainly a good thing to be piggybacked at some point with Walker. That’s kind of the thought.”
Kershaw started Game 2 of the series, so an appearance on Wednesday night would come on regular rest.
Walker Buehler is set to start and the hope is that he will be able to pitch effectively deep into the game, which he did in Game 1 when he tossed six shutout innings to earn a victory.
With a day off after Game 4, the entire Dodgers bullpen should be able to pitch if needed. If Kershaw piggybacks Buehler, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly and Adam Kolarek are the other arms that can be expected to get into the game.
One other starter that could potentially make an appearance out of the bullpen is Hyun-Jin Ryu. “I think that, yeah, I mean, I’m sure he would be available,” Roberts said.
“But I think that if you’re talking about, obviously, Kershaw, Jansen, Kelly, and so — Kolarek, but I think that, yes, Hyun-Jin I’m sure will be available, but we’ll see what happens.”
Ryu has previously been uncomfortable pitching out of the bullpen due to his injury history. Starters typically take a lot longer to warm up than relievers, so if Ryu is used, Roberts will likely give him enough time necessary to get prepared to pitch in a winner-take-all game.