Needing 11 more wins to end their World Series drought that’s now spanned 31 years, the Los Angeles Dodgers officially begin their quest on Thursday when they face the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the 2019 National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium.
It marks a second time in the past four seasons that the two teams are squaring off in a postseason matchup, with the previous one taking place during the 2016 NLDS.
As was the case three years ago, the Dodgers’ and Nationals’ star-studded starting rotations are expected to dominate storylines. Thursday’s opener features an intriguing matchup between a pair of All-Stars in Walker Buehler and Patrick Corbin.
The right-hander was humbled by Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ decision to give him the nod over some of the club’s other veterans, but downplayed the significance.
And while both clubs have yet to publicly announce the construction of their rotations for ensuing matchups, the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg are all expected to take the mound at some point as well.
With so many big names on hand to start for the Dodgers and Nationals, the 2019 NLDS could abandon a recent trend that has taken the sport by storm in recent years.
Rather than go to the bullpen early and play to certain matchups, both clubs may ultimately lean on their starting pitching for as long as possible. “I think it kind of in some way lends itself to old school baseball,” Buehler said of the potential strategy.
“I think that’s how the game has always been played. And when you’ve got the six starters and the other starters on both teams are all really good, so just kind of is what it is. I think successful teams have to have good successful starting pitching.
“And whether that’s, some teams want that to be five innings, some teams want it to be seven, we happen to be one of those that wants it to be seven to nine or whatever. I think these teams are in the playoffs for a reason and you’re not going to get there without starting pitching.”
Roberts, who has relied on both starting pitching and relievers in past postseason games, agreed with the right-hander’s assessment. “It’s about starting pitching,” he said.
“That’s a good question. I think that, obviously, you’re talking a lot in recent postseasons about bullpening and third time through and all that kind of stuff. But if you look at the Nationals, I think, obviously, the Astros and us, it’s heavy reliance, this year, on starting pitching.”