Dodgers: Game 5 NLDS Key Things to Lookout For

CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Anthony Rizzo
CHICAGO, IL - OCTOBER 11: Anthony Rizzo /

Game 5 of the NLDS between the Cubs and the Nationals is scheduled to start at 5:08 pm Pacific time later this evening. No question about it, the Dodgers will be watching and watching closely.

The fact that we’re at game 5 in this Division Series is nothing but good news for the Dodgers. The Dodgers took care of business early and now will have had four important days off before game 1 of the NLCS on Saturday.

That won’t be the case for whichever team survives game five tonight. These two teams are playing on back to back nights due to a postponed game four at Chicago. Both clubs have exhausted their pitching and used their ace starting pitcher two times in this series.

Kyle Hendricks will make his second start of the series in game five. He pitched seven scoreless innings in game one at Washington. The Nats will counter with their only lefty in the rotation, Gio Gonzalez. Gonzalez pitched game two in Washington and allowed three earned runs over five innings in 83 pitches. Both starters are pitching on relatively regular rest so their managers are hoping they could go deep in the game. But the Dodgers are hoping for the opposite.

Regardless of who emerges victorious, the Dodgers are in a much more favorable position. The Nats were forced to use their first two starters in this series, which means that the Dodgers would likely only see Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez start once should the Nats advance. Their likely game one starter would be Max Scherzer if the game goes as Dusty Baker plans.

If the Cubs win, the Dodgers are still in a good spot. Hendricks is the only pitcher to start twice, but Joe Maddon used Jon Lester last night in relief. After throwing 55 pitches, that likely pushes him out of the running to start game 1 or game 2 in the NLCS should they win. That forces the Cubs to throw Jose Quintana who pitched game 3 to open the NLCS for Chicago. I’m not sure about you, but I’ll take Kershaw over either of these starters.

So we know the Dodgers will be watching, but what will they be watching for?

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Their starting pitchers have all been burned. The Nats are the only team to not use a starting pitcher on their roster (Tanner Roark), but he’ll likely be available in tonight’s game. That’s the key to look out for tonight. What pitchers are available for both teams.

Ideally, in a perfect world, this game goes 15+ innings, and both managers are forced to throw every pitcher on their roster. Although that may not that be realistic, we can still hope the managers use up all of their pitching, from relievers to starters. With a winner take all pressured game, I’d expect both starting pitchers to have a short leash, which bodes well for the Dodgers.

I picture the ideal situation as both starting pitchers struggle early and are relieved by Scherzer for the Nats and Quintana for the Cubs. It’s a little more difficult to see a situation where Baker brings in Scherzer early in the game considering that he has yet to use Roark. But it’s a win or go home game, everyone is available, so keep an eye out for starters used out of the bullpen.

Another thing worth keeping an eye on is the usage of their back end of the bullpen. The Cubs have used Carl Edwards in each game of this series, and he has yet to find any success, giving up five earned runs in 2 1/3. They have also used their closer Wade Davis in three of the four games. Since the Dodgers have a lefty-heavy lineup, it would be great to see Mike Montgomery and Justin Wilson get in the game so they won’t as fresh come this weekend. Maddon has used both in only one game so far so he may ask them to go multiple innings.  For the most part, the Cubs’ pitching has done a good job, giving up a 2.57 ERA, but the innings are what the Dodgers are hoping the Nats could pile on.

For the Nats, Baker it’s been trusting his starting pitching rather than mixing and matching guys from his bullpen. His starters have combined for 25 1/3 of the 35 innings pitched for the Nats this series. Their pitching has been lights out as their pitchers have a combined ERA of 1.54. Of course, Baker trust his starting pitchers more because they don’t really have a shutdown bullpen. Outside of Sean Doolittle, their bullpen isn’t anything to write home about. The key here for the Dodgers would be getting Scherzer into the game.

Hitting is at a premium. This is the last thing to look out for. While these pitchers have appeared dominant, it has really been the hitting that has deflated these two teams. During the regular season, these two teams both had powerhouse offenses. In the NLDS the Cubs are hitting .159, while the Nats are hitting .130.

The Nats 8 regular starters have combined for 14 hits on 112 at-bats, which translates to a 120 batting average. The Cubs aren’t quite as bad, but they’re still pretty bad. They have mixed up their lineup more than the Nats, but the hitters with 5 or more at-bats are hitting a combined 18 for 99, .181 average. These two

These two offenses are ice cold, and not even the superstars can break out of this slump. Rizzo and Bryant have combined for 7 hits and 6 RBI. While Harper and Murphy have combined for 4 hits with 2 RBI. These offenses won’t be down for long, and if the Dodgers are going to want the pitching to be eaten alive, the bats need to wake up.

Next: Potential NLCS Roster Changes

Whatever the turnout is the Dodgers are in prime position to start the series. We can’t guarantee anything because as we know, you can’t win baseball games on paper. These two teams should be locked into a battle for 9 (hopefully more) great innings of baseball. The Dodgers will be ready for whoever makes the trip to Hollywood.