Maybe it’s strategy. Maybe the Dodgers genuinely don’t know. Maybe Dave Roberts will text Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker late Friday night with the Dodgers’ starter the way he messaged San Francisco Giants manager Gabe Kapler on Wednesday ahead of Game 5 of the National League Division Series.
But Roberts told reporters in a videoconference call Friday evening that the Dodgers didn’t know who will start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series for them Saturday night. Roberts said it will either be Max Scherzer or a reliever as part of a bullpen game.
Scherzer threw 13 pitches in the ninth inning Thursday night to close out the Giants for his first career save. Roberts said the decision will come down to how Scherzer feels. It’s unlikely that the fiery Scherzer will say he’s not ready to pitch Saturday.
“He’s gonna go out there, play catch and get treatment, and if he says he’s good enough and feels like he can take down a start, then he’ll be our Game 1 starter,” Roberts said.
If the Dodgers opt for a bullpen game, Scherzer would start Game 2 on Sunday followed by Walker Buehler in Game 3 on Tuesday in Los Angeles. Julio Urías would start Game 4 on Wednesday.
Roberts said Tony Gonsolin would be featured, perhaps, heavily, Saturday if the Dodgers go with a bullpen game. Gonsolin didn’t pitch in the NLDS. He hasn’t appeared in a game since Sept. 30, more than two weeks ago. To stay sharp, Gonsolin threw a live batting practice session during the Dodgers’ workout Tuesday in San Francisco. He posted a 3.23 ERA in 55 2/3 innings this season.
Roberts said the Dodgers will likely carry 13 pitchers and 13 position players for the seven-game NLCS. The club carried 14 pitchers and 12 position players in the NLDS. Outfielders Steven Souza Jr. or Billy McKinney will probably not make the cut.
Right-hander Evan Phillips and left-hander Justin Bruihl are candidates to add to the bullpen. Phillips provides a multiple-inning option, while Bruihl is a better counter for left-handed hitters Freddie Freeman, Joc Pederson and Eddie Rosario.
On the other end of ‘Joctober’
Speaking of Pederson, the former Dodgers outfielder hit two pinch-hit home runs in the Braves’ four-game NLDS win over the Milwaukee Brewers, reviving the “Joctober” moniker he was given for his postseason performances in Los Angeles. He also drew attention with his pearl necklace.
The Dodgers have faced Pederson in three series this season; two when he was with the Chicago Cubs and one after he was traded to Atlanta.
“We FaceTimed him the other day to ask him what’s going on with this pearl necklace he’s wearing,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner joked. “It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun to go battle and to compete against him.”
A rematch in different circumstances
This NLCS represents a rematch from last year, but the circumstances were very different a year ago during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last year, the clubs played at a neutral site — Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas — in front of capped crowds of 11,000, and they played every day without a day off. This postseason is a pleasant return to normality — traveling and playing in front of sellout crowds — even if it isn’t as convenient.
“It’s much different. I don’t want to say better,” Roberts said. ”I do think having fans is certainly better, but being in one location and not having to travel and having everyone’s family, players and coaches and staff in one location was a lot of fun, to be quite honest.
“Certainly, the net is way better having fans and going into crazy hostile environments and also being at home with our fans. A lot different. It’s been a lot of fun, and I think we fed off the energy at Dodger Stadium, certainly.”
The postgame parties are different too, according to Turner, who said the Dodgers had a low-key get-together at their hotel in San Francisco after Thursday’s win.
“It was almost the opposite of what we experienced after every round in the bubble last year, which felt more like a big party,” Turner said. “But we also knew we had an early flight today, so it was pretty mild. They didn’t even let us turn the music up. They yelled at us for the music. They said no music after 10.”
Remaining start times announced
Major League Baseball on Friday announced the remainder of the NLCS start times:
Game 3: Tuesday at Dodger Stadium: 2:08 p.m. Pacific time
Game 4: Wednesday at Dodger Stadium: 5:08 p.m.
Game 5: Thursday at Dodger Stadium: 5:08 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 6: Saturday at Truist Park: 2:08 p.m. (if necessary)
Game 7: Sunday at Truist Park: 4:38 p.m. (if necessary)