The health of Hanley Ramirez remains the biggest concern for the Dodgers in their comeback attempt at the National League Championship Series, but they also face a much-anticipated decision regarding Tuesday’s starting pitcher.
Remaining NLCS schedule
Game 4: 5:07 p.m. Tuesday
Game 5: 1:07 p.m. Wednesday
Game 6 (if necessary): 5:37 p.m. Friday
Game 7 (if necessary): 5:37 p.m. Saturday
If the Dodgers start Ricky Nolasco in their next game against Lance Lynn, even if they lose, they would take their shots in the next three games with fully rested starters Zack Greinke against Joe Kelly, Clayton Kershaw against Michael Wacha and Hyun-Jin Ryu against Adam Wainwright. That’s still a nervewracking scenario, but things could be worse.
If the Dodgers skip Nolasco, that would signify a strategy of using Greinke and Kershaw on three days’ rest (and limited pitch counts) in Games 4 and 5, followed by the need to still push Nolasco out there in Game 6 – against Wacha in the less friendly confines of Busch Stadium. And through every game, there would be more pressure on the Dodgers’ middle relief.
Doesn’t the choice seem clear here?
Dodger fans have reason to be wary of Nolasco after his rough end of the regular season, but there’s almost no chance they go to the World Series without getting something out of him in the NLCS. Given that he is a better pitcher than he showed in his final three starts of September – and that he had a 2.48 ERA and .580 opponents’ OPS in Dodger Stadium this year – I don’t see why Nolasco shouldn’t start Game 4.
The return of Ryu to form tonight and the possibility that his work from the left side could still be a weapon (even in a Game 7), combined with the advantage of having Greinke and Kershaw on full rest, should provide all the assurance the Dodgers need to think long-term about this series and start Nolasco in Game 4.
Now, if Ramirez is able to get out of bed Tuesday, that would be nice, too.