If Walker Blister Buehler makes it through his Thursday start without a hitch, you can safely assume that he and Clayton Kershaw will start the Dodgers’ first two postseason games next week. Kershaw has earned the Game 1 start based on his 2020 performance, but by pitching Friday, he would actually be a slot behind Buelher in the rotation. The Dodgers have the following options:
- Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Buehler on five days’ rest
- Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Kershaw on five days’ rest
- Game 1 (Wednesday, September 30): Kershaw on four days’ rest
- Game 2 (Thursday, October 1): Buehler on six days’ rest
Given that the Dodgers could have gone with Kershaw on Thursday and Buehler on Friday this week, it would appear that they might actually be leaning toward Option 1. Again, this depends on Buehler’s Thursday start.
But that’s not actually the subject of this post. Rather, it’s to tackle the question of how the Dodgers would approach their third postseason game, whether it’s an elimination game of the best-of-three opening round (gulp*) on Friday, October 2 or the opening game of the best-of-five National League Division Series — a potential matchup with the Padres — on Tuesday, October 6.
*Yes, it’s possible that the best team in baseball won’t play more than two postseason games in 2020. We’ll deal with that another day.
Tony Gonsolin, Dustin May and Julio Urías are all options for that third game — and I mean that in more ways than one.
The NLDS doesn’t open until Tuesday, October 6, which is five days after Game 2 of the opening round. That means that the Dodgers can reset their rotation with Kershaw and Buehler taking the first two games (in whatever order).
And it means that Game 3 of the NLDS won’t come until Thursday, October 8 — six days after a potential Game 3 of the opening round.
Consequently, the Dodgers not only can choose between Gonsolin, May and Urías, in the opening round — they can use them all.
I’m not saying they have to. If, ultimately, Gonsolin brings a sub-2.00 ERA to the mound and pitches seven shutout innings, that’s wonderful.
But endurance hasn’t been a hallmark of the 2020 Dodger pitchers — depth has, and if nothing else, it’s nice for Dodger fans to know that they don’t need to rely on a single pitcher to carry the team in this precarious situation. In particular, the Dodgers could go right-left-right with Gonsolin, Urías and May in a deciding opening-round Game 3 to thrwart attempts by their opponent to gain a platoon advantage.
If the Dodgers make it to the NLDS, off days disappear within series (except during the World Series), so they might have to make more careful choices about their rotation order for the non-Kershaw/Buehler games. But for now, you can let them all roll.
P.S. I’m sure some Dodger fans are recoiling at the thought of Urías pitching in the first inning during the postseason, when he has allowed more first-inning runs this season than the rest of the staff combined. But even if you buy into that, his ERA after the first inning is 2.08, so it’s clear he can make adjustments. Somehow, you want him in the action.