While we all know that there’s a very good chance the Dodgers walk away with the National League’s top playoff seed, what we don’t know is how the team will put together its starting playoff rotation.
And, while there are just seven games remaining on the regular season schedule, there’s a lot that can happen between now and September 30—the opening day of the NL playoffs.
Daily, we hear all the “if the season ended today” scenarios. Sunday’s version would have a prospectively No. 1 seeded Dodgers pitted against the eighth-seeded Reds, who currently sit in third place in the Central with a 26-27 record.
The opening round will be a best-of-three series. As it stands, the Dodgers still haven’t made a commitment to the three pitchers they would use in such a series, but it might be safe to say that the rotation setup could depend on how righty Walker Buehler comes out of his start on Thursday against Oakland.
Still on the injured list with a blister problem, Buehler survived a 90-pitch simulated game at the team’s alternate site on Saturday. According to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, Buehler threw 75 of those 90 pitches with the blister uncovered.
Some pundits are referring to Buehler’s return on Thursday as a final tuneup before the postseason. However, in theory, the Thursday start might be an audition of sorts for October.
Should Buehler impress against the Athletics, there’s no question he would slot in behind staff ace Clayton Kershaw as the No. 2 starter in the opening series. Should there be any type of setback, though, there might be some difficult decisions in order.
Even if Buehler comes out of his Thursday start unscathed, the Dodgers will still need to decide who they will send to the hill for a potential Game 3. Conceivably, it could be any one of Tony Gonsolin, Julio Urias or Dustin May, if Buehler is indeed good to go.
All three of the aforementioned arms have a limited amount of MLB experience throwing in relief, so it goes without saying that at least one of the three will be appearing out of the bullpen in October. Based on the way all three have been pitching lately, for the rotation I’d think I’d choose Gonsolin, who has put up a miniscule 1.51 ERA over the 35-1/3 innings he has thrown this season.
Nevertheless, a prospective rotation order could be built based on the actual playoff opponent. For example, the Reds have hit just .208 this season against southpaw pitching, which could premise a Urias inclusion with both may and Gonsolin throwing in relief. I’ve always believed in throwing your best three arms regardless of the playoff opponent, but we all know how similar types of logistics have played roles in past postseason decisions made by Dodgers management.
In the meantime, the Dodgers will play one more game in Denver before returning home to face the Athletics for a three-game set starting on Tuesday. Los Angeles will finish the season at Dodger Stadium with three contests against the Angels beginning September 25.