Predicting The Dodgers Starting Rotation For First Round Of Postseason

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Dodgers 

With less than a week left in the regular season, the Dodgers are gearing up for a three-game playoff series having already punched their postseason ticket. There are still games to be played in order to determine seed-positioning and who the Dodgers will face, but let’s look at the starting rotation options for the first round of the playoffs.

The Dodgers have pitching depth on their side, however, Dave Roberts will most likely go with the hottest hands (and preferably the healthiest) once the postseason starts. If Walker Buehler wasn’t battling a blister issue, he’d be a lock to start game one of any postseason series given his playoff success (1-1, 2.72 ERA, 0.868 WHIP in six career starts).  In seven starts this year, Buehler is 1-0, with a 3.86 ERA a 1.01 WHIP and surrendered seven home runs. While those numbers aren’t terrible, anyone’s who has watched him this season can tell he’s not been his usual dominant self.

Buehler hasn’t pitched since September 8 going only 2.2 innings, giving up four hits, and two earned runs, but he is on-track to make one more start before the season ends. Roberts said Buehler is scheduled to pitch Thursday vs. the Oakland Athletics. On Saturday, Buehler threw a bullpen session in which he threw 90 pitches (75 of those pitches he threw with his blister uncovered), according to Jorge Castillo of the LA Times. Thursday will serve as an audition, of sorts, to see if he’s healthy and sharp enough to start in the postseason.

If Buehler can’t go in game one, that leaves longtime ace Clayton Kershaw as the obvious choice for Roberts. Kershaw’s postseason struggles are well-documented, but this year he’s put himself in the conversation to win his fourth career Cy Young Award. Since being scratched on Opening Day, he’s returned to make nine starts, put up a 5-2 record, 2.28 ERA, 53 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.78 over 47.1 innings. It’s possible pitching in games featuring zero screaming fans could actually be the thing Kershaw needs to relieve some pressure and be successful in the postseason.

For game two, the Dodgers should go with Tony “Cat Man” Gonsolin.  He’s already proven he belongs in the starting rotation and has been a colossal upgrade to Ross Stripling (who was traded to the Toronto Blue Jays in August). In eight games this season, Gonsolin has a 1-2 record with an ERA of 1.77, 40 strikeouts and a WHIP of 0.787 in 40.2 innings of work. We’ve seen how effective he can be in an emergency role, coming out of the bullpen after Dustin May took a batted ball of his foot on September 10, but his true value lies in the starting rotation. Despite the loss to the Colorado Rockies on Sunday, Gonsolin pitched good enough to win. He went five innings, gave up two runs and struck out 10. The start before that was even more impressive because it came in the form of a dominating performance against the division-rival San Diego Padres. He went seven strong innings of one-run baseball while striking out two and picking up a much-needed victory.

Last, but not least, the starter for game three should be the Dodgers’ red-haired, fire-baller, Dustin May. Despite taking the come-backer off his foot in Arizona, he’s been able to bounce back since. His next appearance after that was on September 16, facing the Padres, in a long-relief role. He recored a hold while going 5.1 innings, giving up three runs (one earned), three hits and striking out six. Pitching in the postseason may present some pressure for May, but he’s already had a little playoff experience in his young career, appearing in last season’s NLDS vs. the Washington Nationals. If he can focus and not let the moment consume him, he’d be an excellent choice to close out a short series if needed.

An honorable mention for the postseason starting rotation would be Julio Urías. However, given his first inning struggles, the Dodgers can’t afford to be put in an early hole in a must-win game. (In the first inning this season Urías has a 9.00 ERA and batters are hitting .340 against him). Despite that, his last two outings have been solid. He went a combined 11.2 innings, gave up three earned runs and struck out five against the Astros and Rockies. So while he’s been a full-time starter this season, he’s had a lot of success out of the bullpen (4-2, 2.21 in 61 career innings of relief) and could be a secret weapon for the Dodgers in the playoffs.

Jacob Cisneros is a writer for Dodgers-LowDown. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram @_JacobCisneros. 

Edited by Jake Reiner. He is a writer and reporter for Dodgers-LowDown and co-host of The Incline Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @QualityJakes