Going into this week’s National League Division Series, the Dodgers knew they would have to endure a game with an imperfect throwing plan, as Tony Gonsolin’s reduced workload from a forearm strain at the end of the season would force them to resort to a de facto bullpen game.
With the series tied 1-1 and moving south to Petco Park this weekend, the Dodgers decided Friday was the time to get rid of it.
Gonsolin will start a deciding third game in the best-of-five series, manager Dave Roberts announced Wednesday night and confirmed in a video call with reporters on Thursday, but exactly how long he will go and how the rest of the staff are doing. will line up behind him, remains unclear.
“I see it as a collection of weapons,” Roberts said. “Obviously less is more, but if we have to use six arms tomorrow we will.”
The move is something of a gamble for the Dodgers, who will save left-hander All-Star Tyler Anderson for a Game 4 start on Saturday.
The Padres will counter in Game 3 with left-hander Blake Snell, who hasn’t been all that effective against the Dodgers this year but held them to just six runs in 14 innings in three starts, perhaps giving San Diego its first throwing advantage of the playoffs.
Roberts, however, was confident of the Dodgers pick.
He said they went with the patchwork launch plan in Game 3 because it would follow an off day, allowing the entire reliever set to be available to contribute.
That includes Andrew Heaney and Dustin May, regular-season starters who moved to the bullpen and are stretched on every pitch 3-4 innings.
Roberts said he wasn’t approaching the game as a piggyback situation, but instead was preparing to chase some matchups and use the full depth of his 13-pitch staff.
“There is not necessarily a person who must gain volume [innings]”, Roberts said. “I just think I’m going to make the decisions [based on] whatever gives us the best chance of winning and avoiding races.
At one point this year, Gonsolin was a Cy Young contender and arguably the Dodgers’ top pitcher, earning his first career All-Star selection while going 16-1 with a 2.14 ERA.
But then the forearm injury hijacked his season, forcing him to miss all of September and return for a brief two-run start in the final week of the season.
With Gonsolin built up to 75 shots after a mock game last weekend, Roberts looked like he wouldn’t hesitate to get to his bullpen early.
“I think we have the opportunity with a weapon compilation to change and vary the looks,” Roberts said, “[so] that they don’t get the same look two, three or four times.
It’s not all about throwing.
The Dodgers could also use a better offensive performance. They are yet to score in nine innings against Padres relievers. They got little production from Mookie Betts (1 for 8), Justin Turner (1 for 6) and Trayce Thompson (0 for 6). And they’ve been mediocre as a team situationally, going three-for-16 with runners in scoring position.
The team will shake up their Game 3 lineup, Roberts said, putting Chris Taylor in left field and Austin Barnes behind the plate for the first time this series. Cody Bellinger and Gavin Lux, both left-handed hitters, will be benched against Snell. Will Smith will be the designated hitter.
“I like where our offense is at,” Roberts said. “I really do.”
But at the end of the day, throwing will likely be the most important factor in a crucial swing play that could either restore the Dodgers’ series advantage or put their season-record 111 wins on the brink.
This story originally appeared in the Los Angeles Times.
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