“I don’t look forward to kind of revisiting that one,” Roberts said with a chuckle Monday before Game 4 of the NLDS. “That was good to just have in my memory.”
The Dodgers certainly didn’t want to be flying home for a decisive fifth contest after falling to the Nationals, 6-1, in Game 4, but it’s a scenario they’ve been in before and are comfortable with, specifically against Washington. Los Angeles will have right-hander Walker Buehler on the mound Wednesday night, hopeful he can repeat his masterful performance from the first game of this series, when he pitched six scoreless innings and surrendered just one hit. The Dodgers won 59 games at Dodger Stadium this season, the second most for any home team in the majors.
“It would’ve been great to finish that off here,” center fielder Cody Bellinger said. “But at home with Buehler going, I like our chances.”
For as successful as the Dodgers have been in the postseason, reaching the past two World Series, there remains what utility player Kike Hernández referred to as “unfinished business.” After they lost to the Houston Astros in 2017, they slogged through the next season just to return to that stage and fall short again, to the Boston Red Sox. The defeat could have crushed them in either instance, but they instead channeled it into trying to give it another go this season, winning the NL West by 21 games — the largest margin in division history.
“It tells you what those guys in that clubhouse, what our mentality is,” Hernández said. “We’re not going to rest until we finally bring a world championship back to Los Angeles.”
In Game 5, the Dodgers will look to get the main ingredient they were missing Monday night — strong starting pitching. Roberts tabbed 39-year-old Rich Hill for Game 4 after he’d played in just 13 games for the Dodgers this season — he missed 12 weeks with a flexor tendon strain in his pitching elbow and then injured his knee in the first inning of his return. Hill had pitched just 5⅔ innings since June.
His night ended after he walked Nationals left fielder Juan Soto to load the bases with two outs in the third, allowing one run with two hits and four walks. Hill’s short stint was expected, but the Dodgers had hoped he could at least get through the fourth inning, so Los Angeles turned to a collection of relievers after him — five to be exact. The only pitcher Roberts deemed unavailable (other than Game 3 starter Hyun-Jin Ryu) was Buehler, saved for the possibility of a Game 5.
“I think that the curveball was up all night and the finish wasn’t quite there,” Roberts said of Hill. “To finish three innings and to be knotted up at 1 was a good spot for us with six innings to play.”
But Roberts’s “bullpenning” approach was foiled with the Nationals’ four-run fifth inning. With lefty Julio Urías on the mound, Trea Turner’s leadoff single to left started the rally, and then Anthony Rendon’s line drive to center brought Turner home. The Dodgers yanked Urías after Howie Kendrick’s hit, bringing in right-hander Pedro Báez to face Ryan Zimmerman. Báez ’s second pitch was a 97-mph fastball that Zimmerman crushed for a three-run home run, lifting Washington to a 5-1 lead that wasn’t relinquished.
The pressure is arguably on Los Angeles now, to win in front of its fans and to have this October finally be the one that ends with a title. It’s something the Dodgers didn’t seem too daunted by Monday night.
“Well, I guess this will be kind of my third of those scenarios, so something I’m familiar with,” Buehler said. “Getting to do it at home certainly helps, and there’s not a lot to it. We’ve got to win a game, and if we don’t, we go home.”