Sunday proved pivotal in the National League West race, as the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies each cruised to respective blowout victories over the San Francisco Giants and Washington Nationals.
Both outcomes paved the way for Monday’s Game 163 tiebreaker at Dodger Stadium. The Giants and Nationals, long eliminated from postseason contention, nevertheless posed as difficult challenges for the Dodgers and Rockies.
San Francisco sent Madison Bumgarner to the mound on Friday after he voluntarily offered to push his start back to face Los Angeles.
Likewise, Nationals ace Max Scherzer publicly expressed his desire to start on Sunday if it meant throwing a wrench in the Rockies’ plans of winning their first division title in franchise history.
While Scherzer hoped to pitch, Washington opted to rest him and instead, give the nod to rookie Erick Fedde. The right-hander entered the contest with a 5.24 ERA on the year and wound up yielding four runs in four innings of work against the Rockies.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was disappointed by the Nationals’ decision to sit Scherzer but nevertheless respected the path they chose, via Jorge Castillo of the L.A. Times:
“Honestly, I just don’t want to put too much thought into what they did or didn’t do,” Roberts said. “Ideally, obviously, everyone knows that that would give them a better chance to win. We understand that. But, again, their decision. You have to respect it. You don’t have to like it or agree with it, but you have to respect it.”
After falling to Stephen Strasburg on Saturday, the Rockies would’ve had an uphill climb in forcing a tiebreaker with the Dodgers should they have faced Scherzer over Fedde.
The Nationals, though, felt it was too great of a risk to start Scherzer with nothing to play for. The three-time Cy Young Award winner leads the NL with 220.2 innings pitched — his sixth consecutive season in reaching the 200-inning threshold.
Roberts admitted that he may have handled his pitching staff differently should he have known ahead of time that the Nationals were resting Scherzer.
Roberts still altered his rotation against the Giants, opting to start Rich Hill on Sunday and preserve Walker Buehler for a potential tiebreaker or Wild Card Game outing. And while it was unconventional, the Dodgers ultimately clinched a sixth consecutive NL West title.