MLB Playoffs on Sling: Dodgers-Nationals in Final Battle for Date With the Cubs

Oct 13, 2016 by Sling Staff

Los Angeles Dodgers (Hill 12-5, 2.12) vs. Washington Nationals (Scherzer 20-7, 2.96), series tied 2-2
8pm Thursday on FS1

Dodgers! Nationals! Game 5!

Doesn’t quite have the ring of “Game 7!” does it? But the stakes are the same, with the winner advancing to a date with the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, and the loser making a tee time. Actually, golf sounds like a pretty good option. The Nationals had the better record and scored more runs than the Dodgers, while also allowing fewer, but but L.A. seemed to be the favorites coming in with Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill seemingly healthy. Whoops. Now the Nats have home field advantage, the better rested starter, and dreams of Wrigley dancing in their heads.

The Dodgers forced a Game 5 with a dramatic win Tuesday night, on a night when the bullpen betrayed Clayton Kershaw, and Chase Utley drive in the winning run with a two-out single in the 8th. Kershaw got pulled after loading the bases with two out in the 7th, and at the time he had a line of 6 ⅔ IP 7 H 2 R 2 B 11 SO – not bad, right? But on came reliever Pedro Baez, who plunked Jayson Werth to drive in a run, then gave way to Luis Avilan, who served up a 2-run single to Daniel Murphy, and just like that, Kershaw had given up 5 runs in 6 ⅔, and the Dodgers had blown a 3-run lead. But two innings later, with runners on first and second, Utley would drive a grounder ball through the first base side, scoring Andrew Toles. Kenley Jansen would come in the 9th to finish the Nats off, with Utley making a brilliant scoop-toss of a Bryce Harper grounder to Jansen to record the final out.

Rich Hill gets the ball tonight for the Dodgers, pitching on short rest for just the second time in his career. The first time was in 2009, when he lasted 3 innings against the Yankees, giving up 5 runs on 3 hits and 4 walks, Nice track record. Throw in a recent propensity for blisters, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Compound that with Hill’s performance in Game 2 of this series, when he got rocked for 4 runs on 6 hits in 4 ⅓ innings, and one has to ask, isn’t Jose Urias the better option? Realistically it doesn’t matter, because you can be sure that Dodgers manager Dave Roberts will give Hill the hook at the first sniff of trouble, and everybody in a Dodger uniform will be available to pitch in relief.

The Nats, meanwhile, are sending to the hill Max Scherzer with an extra day off. Scherzer could probably use the rest, given that he led the N.L. in innings this season, and gave up 4 runs in just 6 innings while taking the loss in Game 1. Nonetheless, smart money’s on the guy with no health issues that are potentially exacerbated by short rest.

Watch the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. Washington Nationals 8pm ET Thursday on FS1 by subscribing to Sling Blue

All stats courtesy ESPN and Baseball Reference.

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