Fresh off stalking and devouring the Detroit Tigers and turning another slumbering late deficit into a Max Muncy walk-off, the Dodgers' primary breadwinner on Tuesday night was the man who followed Caleb Ferguson with six innings of effective bulk: Ryan Pepiot.
While the Dodgers have cycled through a higher-than-normal number of rookie pitchers this season and only Bobby Miller has (seemingly) stuck in the postseason rotation, Pepiot put another powerhouse paragraph on his resumé against a young Tigers team that loves to go fastball hunting.
Only Parker Meadows did any damage in Pepiot's six clean innings of work, marking his third consecutive outing of 6+ innings as he builds up his tolerance. The highlight of his season was the seven one-hit innings he hurled against Miami two outings ago, taming the Wild Card contender on just 84 pitches.
And while it's honorable that LA has tried to raise the curtain late on Pepiot by providing him with a short-relief opener, Tuesday should be the official end of that tradition; Ferguson, of course, dented the scoreboard just as much in his singular inning of work as Pepiot did in six more frames.
Dodgers starter Ryan Pepiot doesn't need an opener for a 2023 MLB Playoff start
The Dodgers are about to enter a postseason unlike any other of the "10 NL West Titles in 11 Years" stretch, with very few external expectations attached. LA's got a star-studded lineup with surprising firepower, yeah, sure, but so do the Atlanta Braves. And how exactly do the Dodgers plan to cover a best-of-seven without a single sure-thing starter?
The chatter is heard and registered. Valid points are being made. With Clayton Kershaw battling a crisis of confidence (and physical breakdown) and Julio Urías so far gone, the Dodgers are traditionally undermanned. That means they'll have to counteract power with creativity, throwing bulk in the form of Ryan Yarbrough and Emmet Sheehan types at their baffled opponents.
The consensus, though, is that rookie Bobby Miller stands alone, and can participate in the festivities without any allowances or defined piggy-backers. While experienced arms should be in reserve behind Pepiot, he deserves the same vote of confidence.
While the 26-year-old lost the plate a startling amount during his small-sample-size 2022 debut, walking 27 in 36.1 innings, fans have seen a far more refined Pepiot in a similar timeframe this summer.
Most of the pain points on his line have been longballs; he's allowed four in 33 innings pitched and only 16 additional hits. But his command signifies a refined approach, as Pepiot has walked a remarkably low three men in six outings this season.
The Dodgers need all hands on deck in October behind all of their hurlers. Miller's still a kid, too. Kershaw's shoulder hasn't allowed him to exceed 90 MPH on a single pitch since his return. Pepiot will be insured against, no matter how seamless his transition goes. But if Miller's being afforded the benefit of a showcase start, then Pepiot should receive the same honor. It's in the Dodgers' best interest not to mess around.