The Los Angeles Dodgers decided Max Scherzer would be their closer for Game 5 of the National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants.
While the move worked at the time, it backfired in the long run.
The Dodgers were aware there would be a cost to using Scherzer out of the bullpen, but manager Dave Roberts said they could not foresee it would affect the right-hander as much as it did.
Scherzer was pushed back from starting the opener of the NL Championship Series, then only managed to throw 79 pitches in Game 2 as he dealt with a dead arm. Scherzer then was scratched from his scheduled start in Game 6, which required Walker Buehler to again take the ball on short rest.
“I think that in talking to Max before the Division Series Game 5 and wanting the baseball and having done it before and, you have to trust the player,” Roberts said. “Certainly a player with his track record, and this is a decision that we all kind of came together and we felt good about.
“So could I foresee where we’re at right now? No. But we still have to make the decision that gets us to this point. So I think that every hurdle, every marker, that we get to we have to make a decision and on the other side of how it’s going to play out, no one knows that. We can all speculate.
“But to your question, to say that what he was able to give us in Game 2, did I expect that after that 13-pitch save? No. And to say after an extra day, not to be able to make the start today, no, I didn’t, and I don’t think Max did either.”
The Dodgers followed a similar strategy in the NLCS when they brought Julio Urias out of the bullpen in the eighth inning of Game 2, though that one didn’t pay dividends in the immediate or future.
Urias allowed two runs in his inning of work, when he was still scheduled to start Game 4 or 5 at the time.
Roberts said he didn’t believe fatigue would affect Urias as much because his pitch count was limited.
“I mean, I think it’s certainly a possibility,” Roberts acknowledged. “But I think with Julio the expectation where we kind of, how we use him in his start days, it’s kind of 75, 80 pitches.
“So we just felt that, not having the bullpen, to be able to give us what he gives us on a typical start, we don’t think it would be compromised, no.”
However, Urias ended up starting Game 4 and allowed five runs in five innings on eight hits, including three home runs. He wasn’t sharp but denied fatigue being to blame.
Scherzer expected to start Game 7
Although Scherzer was unable to start what wound up being a season-ending loss for the Dodgers, he anticipated being in position to take the mound if the NLCS had gone to a Game 7.
“Very, very confident,” Roberts echoed. “What he will be able to give us and how long? I don’t know the answer. I don’t think anybody does. But as far as him taking the baseball, if we put ourselves in that position, I feel very confident.”
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