The Washington Nationals host the Los Angeles Dodgers in the deciding Game 5 of the National League Division Series on Thursday nights at Nationals Park, in what has been the most competitive series of the postseason. While Nationals manager Dusty Baker turns to ace Max Scherzer to start on five days rest, the Dodgers pitching situation figures to be more complex.
Manager Dave Roberts is not reluctant to call upon his deep bullpen, and there is a distinct possibility that left-handed starter Rich Hill could be replaced by star rookie Julio Urias, who is also a southpaw. The 20-year-old hasn't pitched in the postseason and hasn't competed since Sept. 29 due to an innings limit prescribed by the team.
Hill, meanwhile, is coming off a rough outing on Oct. 9. The 36-year-old allowed four earned runs in 4.1 innings in Game 2 and hasn't pitched more than six innings since Sept. 10.
"I believe we're tied in this series because I didn't execute," Hill told reporters after Game 2. "I'm really disappointed. I thought that game was going to play well for me personally to put us in a good position to win and I didn't execute. It's all solely on me."
Roberts' reputation for making many pitching changes—he used eight total pitchers in Game 3—may prompt much debate in Game 5, considering how well Hill is capable of pitching despite his recent struggles. Urias might be the most effective pitcher on the team outside of superstar ace Clayton Kershaw, but there are questions about overworking the young pitcher.
Roberts also has left-hander Grant Dayton in the bullpen, who has allowed an earned run in one of his three appearances in the series, but the 28-year-old rookie has enjoyed a stellar regular season. There are plenty of right-handers, with Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez, and closer Pedro Baez all available.
As for the Nationals, Scherzer is expected to go as deep into the game as needed. The 32-year-old is a Cy Young candidate and has pitched seven or more innings in 20 starts in 2016. But the cause for concern is that Scherzer allowed four earned runs in six innings in Game 1, and has a 3.93 ERA in 11 postseason starts.
"This will probably be the biggest start of my career," Scherzer told reporters in Los Angeles. "I've said that a few times in my life, but I think this will be it. You're going to get the absolute best out of everybody on both teams."
Baker's bullpen has been very reliable in the series. Sammy Solis, Mark Melancon, Oliver Perez, Marc Rzepczynski and Shawn Kelley have combined to not allow a run over 13.1 innings. Blake Treinen and Reynaldo Lopez are the only relievers to allow a run.
The Nationals' bats have performed well in the series, racking up 21 runs in four games. Catcher Jose Lobaton, who filled in for Wilson Ramos, has been one of the stars for the Nationals when he ripped a three-run homer in Game 2. Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy have been particularly impressive, with 13 total hits in 28 at-bats.
The Dodgers' offense has been led by Justin Turner, who has five hits, including a home run in Game 1.
Start Time: 8:08 p.m. ET
TV Channel: Fox Sports 1
Betting Odds: Nationals -150
Over/Under: 7 runs
Prediction: Nationals over Dodgers, 5-3