By Jon Weisman
Like Brett Anderson did on Thursday, Brandon McCarthy is expected to pitch out of the bullpen for the Dodgers when they open their season-ending series at San Francisco tonight.
The relief appearances by Anderson (2 1/3 innings, five hits, two strikeouts) and McCarthy keep alive the chances that either could be added to the Dodger playoff pitching staff.
“We wanted to get a different look from Brett, for him to come out of the pen — it’s something he’s really not accustomed to,” Dave Roberts said after Thursday’s game, according to Mike DiGiovanna of the Times. “His velocity was up. He was victim to some soft-contact hits, but his breaking ball was good. For Brett to come in … it was a positive outing for him.”
The Dodger playoff bullpen was already overflowing with candidates before Anderson and McCarthy slid from starter campaigns into the relief race, essentially trading with Julio Urías, who struck out five Thursday in three shutout innings of what appears to have been a tuneup to start Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
If you consider Kenley Jansen, Joe Blanton, Pedro Báez and Grant Dayton bullpen locks and Ross Stripling the next closest thing, then Anderson and McCarthy would be competing with the likes of lefties Anderson, Luis Avilan, J.P. Howell, Adam Liberatore and Alex Wood, and righties Jesse Chavez, Louis Coleman and Josh Fields, for two (maybe three) remaining spots.
“What Strip has done out of the pen, there’s a lot to like, he’s got a lot of weapons,” Roberts said. “We’re going to use McCarthy out of the pen Friday night and see how his stuff plays. It’s a good situation because we have a lot of ways we can go.”
Wood has come on fast since returning from the disabled list, pitching a shutout inning in three consecutive appearances, needing only 43 pitches to get his nine outs. But Avilan has 7 2/3 shutout innings with a 0.78 WHIP and nine strikeouts to his credit this month.
Fields has also made a late bid thanks to a September in which he has allowed one run in 8 2/3 innings with nine strikeouts, though he has walked five.
Urías looks every bit like an NLDS Game 4 starter if the Dodgers require one, but expect that game to be all hands on deck as needed.
Rich Hill will start for the Dodgers (91-68), who are two games behind Washington (93-66) with three to play for home field in the NLDS. The Nationals host the Marlins for three games.
San Francisco (84-75) has a one-game lead for the second NL wild card ahead of St. Louis (83-76), which hosts Pittsburgh. The Mets (85-74) need only a win in their final three games against Philadelphia to clinch at least a tie for one of the wild card spots.