The Los Angeles Dodgers head into the final day of the 2018 regular season in position to potentially win the National League West by way of multiple scenarios. And with that, the club has elected to start Rich Hill, not Walker Buehler in the Sunday’s finale.
Hill was initially pushed back in the starting rotation to avoid facing the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. That left him lined up to take the ball in the series opener against the San Francisco Giants, but he was then strategically skipped over.
At the time, the decision was seemingly to have Hill as a safety valve if the Dodgers were to play a Game 163 to decide the NL West, or a multitude of Wild Card Game scenarios.
Now that the Dodgers have clinched a berth in the postseason, at minimum guaranteeing themselves the second Wild Card spot, the number of possible options have reduced.
Buehler is now available to start Monday if the Dodgers are to face the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium in a game that would decide the NL West champion. Or, Buehler presumably would start Tuesday in the Wild Card Game if the Rockies are to clinch their first division title on Sunday.
It’s plausible the Washington Nationals reversing course and no longer starting Max Scherzer against the Rockies factored into the Dodgers’ decision to shuffle their deck.
While they were mulling over their decision on who to start in the regular-season finale, Hill said he was prepared to pitch under any scenario. He faced the Giants in each of his first two starts this year, going 1-0 and allowing a combined three runs on 10 hits, and collecting 11 strikeouts over 10 innings pitched.