The Los Angeles Dodgers are playing in the National League Championship Series for a third consecutive season, after defeating the Atlanta Braves in four games in the Division Series.
The Dodgers now travel to the Milwaukee Brewers, although they do have a few days off beforehand as the series does not begin until Friday evening.
A big reason the Dodgers advanced was because of the performance from their starting rotation, namely Hyun-Jin Ryu and Clayton Kershaw, who both tossed gems in the first two games of the series.
Given the off days, the starting rotation will be well-rested going into the NLCS against the Brewers. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has yet to officially set his rotation order, although he is known to make some surprise decisions (i.e. going with Ryu over Kershaw in Game 1 of the NLDS).
Kershaw is set to start Game 1 of the NLCS, but beyond that, everything is still up in the air. Taking into account many different factors, out staff debated what the Dodgers rotation order should be in the NLCS in our latest Dodger Blue roundtable.
Daniel Starkand (@DStarkand):
After Kershaw in Game 1, I would go with Walker Buehler in Game 2, Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 3 and Rich Hill in Game 4. The big reason for that is because of how much better Ryu has been at home this season.
It’s true that Buehler has also been better at Dodger Stadium, but I think he will learn from the experience of Game 3 of the NLDS against the Braves and is now more prepared to start a big game on the road in a hostile environment.
The Dodgers will have to win at least one game on the road to win this series, and with Kershaw and Buehler going in Games 1 and 2, I would not be that surprised to see them win both of those.
Matt Borelli (@mcborelli):
With Clayton Kershaw set for Game 1, I would imagine Walker Buehler gets the nod in the ensuing contest at Miller Park. Buehler, coming off a shaky outing against the Braves, would have an opportunity to redeem himself on six days rest before the NLCS shifts to L.A. next week.
Depending on the outcome of Game 1, Buehler could potentially pitch the Dodgers to a commanding 2-0 lead in the series before they head back home for a minimum of two games, and if necessary, a third in Game 5.
For Games 3 and 4 at Dodger Stadium, I’d hand the ball to Hyun-Jin Ryu and Rich Hill in that order. The former was untouchable at Chavez Ravine this season, posting a 1.02 ERA in 10 starts there.
Hill has identical home/road splits this year, but he’d be starting on eight days of rest in Game 4. That’s ideal because Hill has proven to be more effective with more time off. In six such starts this season with six or more days of rest, he compiled a solid 3.34 ERA.
Jeff Spiegel (@JeffSpiegel):
Kershaw, Ryu, Buehler, Hill would be my rotation.
With Kershaw announced, obviously the big question is where to slot in Ryu and Buehler — and for me, the answer is determined by looking at when each of these guys would be pitching for a second time if needed.
Both Ryu and Buehler are far better at home than they are on the road — something that has extended into the postseason with Ryu pitching excellent at home against the Braves, while Buehler was great at home against the Rockies and poorly on the road against the Braves.
If Ryu were to pitch Game 2, it would set him up to pitch Game 6 on his preferred schedule of an extra day of rest (five full days off in between starts).
Meanwhile, Buehler could pitch Game 3 and then Game 7 if needed — all on normal rest (four full days off in between starts). Some other factors for me: if one of these guys is needed to start on the road, I’d prefer the even-keeled veteran (Ryu) over the volatile rookie.
Additionally, in a Game 7, I think Buehler’s confidence is advantageous for the Dodgers.
Jared Massey (@JarredJMassey):
For me, I don’t think the NLCS rotation should change drastically from the NLDS rotation. Obviously Kershaw and Ryu are flipped, but I expect Buehler and Hill to rebound at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw going on short rest is less likely than it was a few years ago, but if the club’s down 2-1 or 3-0, I wouldn’t say it’s out of the realm of possibility that Kershaw starts Game 4. If he doesn’t go on short rest and pitches Game 5, that leaves the final two games for Ryu and Buehler in Milwaukee, which is less ideal than having Kershaw available.
Still, those two have pitched extremely well late this year, save Buehler’s second inning implosion in Game 3 in Atlanta. I’m sure the club will be confident that either of them can close out the series on the road.
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