The Dodgers are going with Rich Hill for the deciding Game 5 tomorrow night, and it’s 100% the right call.
If you would have asked me who should start Game 5 before the series started, or even before the Dodges decided to go with Clayton Kershaw in Game 4, my answer probably would have been different.
After the rainout postponed Game 2, I assumed that meant the Dodgers would go with Julio Urias for Game 4, and come back with a fully rested Kershaw for Game 5. I would have been perfectly content with that, and in fact, would have preferred that strategy. But once the Dodgers went with Kershaw on short rest for Game 4, it really only left one option in my opinion for Game 5. And that option is Hill, without a doubt.
I’ve been a full supporter of the Dodgers young pitchers this year, and have been a big advocate of them playing a role in the playoffs. I even made the case that Jose De Leon should be the 4th starter if Urias was kept in the bullpen for the post season. And when the Dodgers made the call to bring Urias back into the rotation, I was all about him starting a potential Game 4.
But not so much for a Game 5 back in Washington.
There are a couple of key reasons why. Game 4 was at home, in the friendly confines of Dodgers stadium, where I think a rookie pitcher might feel more comfortable. Road starts can be intimidating for opposing pitchers, especially if it’s a young 20-year old pitcher, who’s never seen post season action before. Also, going against Joe Ross, you’d figure that you might have more room for error than going against Max Scherzer.
I know the Dodgers had some success in Game 1 against Scherzer, but that really doesn’t mean much of anything for Game 5. They’ll still be going up against one of the best pitchers in the game, and it will be a challenge to get on the scoreboard. Trying to match pitches with him could be added pressure for the young Urias.
Also, it’s not so much that the Dodgers shouldn’t have faith in Urias, but more that they should have lots of faith in Rich Hill. This is why they acquired him at the trading deadline; to pitch well in the playoffs and get them to the next level. Game 5 is certainly that scenario.
In Game 2, Hill didn’t pitch like he had since coming over to the Dodgers. He didn’t pitch horrible, but it wasn’t the Rich Hill we’ve been accustomed to seeing. He lasted only 4 1/3 innings, giving up 4 ER, including a big 3-run homerun to the #8 hitter, Jose Lobaton. Hill walked two, and also hit a batter twice (both times being .209 hitting Danny Espinosa.)
After the loss, he put the blame squarely on himself, saying that he simply didn’t execute. He certainly wasn’t at his best, although the Dodgers offense surely didn’t help things by going 1-9 with RISP, and leaving a small village on the bases.
Of course his struggles in one game shouldn’t give the Dodgers pause about going with Hill for Game 5. He’s been one of the best pitchers in baseball all year, depicted by his 2.12 ERA, and hopefully for the Dodgers, his Game 2 performance was just an anomaly.
Performance aside, some may also question the short rest factor. Hill hasn’t pitched on short rest all year, and has done so only once in his career, which was way back when he pitched for the Cubs. Still though, I’m not sure past numbers, even if there were any to go off of, would be the determining factor in the Game 5 call. Facing elimination, this is a win or go home situation for the Dodgers, and it’s all hands on deck.
Hill only threw 82 pitches in Game 2, which isn’t a lot. Admittedly, in the regular season, he was removed from most of his starts around the 70-90 pitch mark, which some might assume is his limit now. But the regular season starts were a different scenario. The Dodgers wanted to be cautious with his blister problems, and they were trying to preserve him. But preserve him for what? The post season, of course, which is where we find ourselves today.
Earlier this year, I hated the decision to remove Hill in the middle of his perfect game. It boggled my mind, and still does. But one of the chief motives behind that move was the idea that Roberts and the Dodgers were really saving Hill for the post season and wanted to make sure he’d be at full strength. Well, here we are. And now is the time to lean on one of the best pitchers in baseball this year, and hope he can lead you to the next round.