Dodgers task Rich Hill with pitching them to NLCS

This is why the Dodgers acquired a guy like Rich Hill — to not only pitch in these kinds of games, but to win them. The circumstances aren’t ideal, as he’s pitching on three days’ rest and coming off a Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde outing his last time out, but this is what the Dodgers committed to when they started Clayton Kershaw on Tuesday.

Oh, and it’s going to be tough against Cy Young front-runner Max Scherzer, whom the Nats signed to do the same thing in these games (pitch in and win). He’s going on full rest and is probably going to be out there for 120 pitches, if needed. But if Hill is truly as good as his peripherals indicate, he might be able to give the Dodgers a dominant, yet short, outing.

Hill’s first three innings on Sunday were dominant, which is what the Dodgers needed. He allowed two hits, walked a batter, hit one and struck out seven Nationals. Things were going great and it looked like he might deliver a fantastic performance. The next two innings — in which he only got four outs — weren’t so good: four hits, four runs, a walk, hit batter, a 3-run home run and no strikeouts. It was a tale of two games for Hill.

Luckily, the Dodgers don’t need seven innings out of Hill tonight. Hell, they might not even need five at this rate. If he can give the Dodgers — at the very minimum — three dominant innings like he did on Sunday, it might be enough (if the bats show up). Ideally, getting five quality innings out of Hill would be best.

Hill has one career start on three days’ rest in his career. In that outing, he went three innings, allowed three hits, five runs (all earned), walked four and struck out two. That start came in New York against the eventual World Series champion Yankees in 2009, though, and Hill is a completely different pitcher than he was seven years ago.

Hill has been dominant this season and is actually worse against his opponent the first time through the lineup than the second or third times through. If he can hold the Nats at bay the first time through, he might be able to get through four or five innings. Whatever happens, he’ll have to pitch a lot better than he did in Game 2.

Julio Urias figures to be on deck to relieve Hill (depending on the situation). It’d be a hell of a time to have the 20-year-old make his postseason debut, but he is on the roster to pitch, not just spectate. If he comes in and gives the Dodgers anywhere from 3-to-6 outs without giving up many runs, that’s a win. After that, the rest of the bullpen figures to be thrown into action.

Just going to throw this out there: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Kenta Maeda in this game. If Hill and Urias only get 12 outs between them, the Dodgers might need some length out of the bullpen. This is Maeda’s throw day, so if he’s needed for an inning or two, he might get the call. It probably won’t happen, but don’t be surprised if it does.

The Dodgers need to get 27 outs (please no extra innings) tonight. If Hill can get, say, 12 and Urias can get six, that means the combination of Pedro Baez, Grant Dayton, Joe Blanton and Kenley Jansen need to get just nine outs among them. That seems plenty doable, and those guys have been good all season and solid in this series (save Jansen’s Game 3 meltdown and Baez’s 1-pitch outing on Tuesday). I don’t anticipate we’ll see much of Luis Avilan, Josh Fields or Ross Stripling in this game. If we do, things might have gone awry.

The Dodgers winning is dependent on getting 27 outs, but they also need to score. It probably won’t be a blowout either way, but if the Dodgers can post four or five runs, I like their chances against Scherzer.

Is it 5 o’clock yet?

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.