The Los Angeles Dodgers‘ hopeful 2019 World Championship run begins tonight.
The Dodgers, owners of the best record in the National League, welcome the Washington Nationals to Chavez Ravine to begin a best-of-five National League Divisional Series. The Nationals bested the Milwaukee Brewers in their Wild Card game on Tuesday, a come-from-behind 4-3 win.
Yesterday, Manager Dave Roberts announced Wednesday that Walker Buehler will be the Dodgers’ Game One starter. Rich Hill was previously announced as the Game Four starter, and the order of Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in between has not yet be announced.
“We just felt that with Walker getting the opportunity to pitch the first game, also potentially a Game 5, gives us the best chance to win, regardless of opponent,” Roberts said.
Hill also may be used out of the bullpen in either Game 1 or 2. Depending on the scenario, Hill could be used for an inning, or an out, or using some in-game throwing as a bullpen.
“We see Rich as a starter, but with that, there’s a situation where I could see him in the ‘pen for Games 1 and 2, if there’s a potential matchup and to essentially use that — or even getting hot as his bullpen — or to come into a game to get an out or two,” Roberts said.
For their part, the Nationals will be sending Patrick Corbin to the mound. Corbin has been somewhat of a Dodger killer – he has only allowed two earned runs in his last 30 innings pitched against them, including seven scoreless earlier this season. He also has struck out 38 Dodgers in that time. Previously with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Corbin has allowed two runs or fewer in 11 of his 19 all time starts against the Dodgers. However, this is his first postseason start. The left-hander relies heavily on his slider to set up his fastball and if the location of the fastball hits, it could be difficult for the Dodgers to get runs early.
The Dodgers will throw out a right handed heavy lineup to face Corbin. Yesterday Roberts announced that David Freese, Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Will Smith and A.J. Pollock will be in the lineup. Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Corey Seager should fill out the rest of the docket to get Buehler some runs.
The Nationals come in hot, winning eight of their last regular season games. Lead by Anthony Rendon, Trea Turner and Juan Soto, they have a formidable lineup. Soto and Rendon are tied with 34 homers each to lead the team. Turner has 35 stolen bases on the season. Rendon is heavily in the conversation for NL MVP, leading the majors in RBI and in the top 5 in about every other offensive category.
Washington sent Max Scherzer to the mound in the Wild Card game, where he promptly allowed three runs in the first inning. He would presumably not be starting until Game 3. The Nats have also yet to announce who their Game 2 starter would be, as Stephen Strasburg threw three innings of relief in that Wild Card game. If it’s not Strasburg, it would be Anibal Sanchez.
While the Dodgers bullpen has been iffy at times throughout the season, the Nationals bullpen could prove to be their downfall. Former Dodger Daniel Hudson has emerged as their closer, after Sean Doolittle was sidelined with injury and hasn’t quite gotten back to his true form.
The key will be patience from the Dodgers’ bats, working the pitch count to get into that bullpen and making the Nationals use all of their pitchers. The home run will also be a good indicator- both off the bats of the Boys in Blue, and not allowing the Nationals to hit too many. The Nationals are hot, and the Dodgers have all the pressure having lost the last two World Series. But the Dodgers are overall the better team, and will clinch the NLDS in DC.
Game time for Game 1 is 5:37 pm PDT. Pregame ceremonies begin at 5:00, and the game will be on TBS.