Max Scherzer won’t be starting for the Dodgers in the sixth game of the NLCS as planned, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. As Castillo details, Scherzer’s wasn’t feeling 100% on Sunday when he started Game 2. The hurler himself said his “arm was dead.” Despite that, the team’s plan was still to start Scherzer in Game 6 on Saturday. Juan Toribio of MLB.com reports that “Scherzer’s arm just hasn’t bounced back” as the team hoped. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports that Scherzer is a possibility for Game 7, but it will depend on how he feels between now and then.
This is certainly a concerning development for a Dodgers team that has pushed its pitching staff to the brink of exhaustion this postseason. Since they were in the midst of a race with the Giants for the division crown all season, they had no opportunity to ease off the gas pedal and had to lean on their best pitchers right until the season’s final day. Since they came up short in that race, they had to immediately gear up for the wild-card game, which Scherzer started, throwing 94 pitches as the Dodgers walked-off the Cardinals and advanced to the NLDS.
Since then, they have used their starters so much that they had to opt for a bullpen game Thursday, despite the fact that they were facing a 3-1 deficit to Atlanta. Seven different pitchers took the mound for the club and led them to an 11-2 victory that seemed to set the stage for Scherzer to take the ball in Game 6, attempting to even up the series and force a Game 7.
Now that Scherzer is off the table, the Dodgers have a few options, but all of them less appealing than a healthy Scherzer. One would be another bullpen game, but that’s a tall ask given that they just had one. However, they did have Friday off, which should theoretically replenish all of their relievers, at least to some degree.
Another option would be turn to David Price, who was just added to the roster to take the place of the injured Joe Kelly. But Price hasn’t pitched in three weeks, with his last appearance coming October 2. And even then, he wasn’t stretched out to start. His last six appearances on the season were out of the bullpen and less than two innings. He was stretched out before that, with five consecutive outings of at least 3 2/3 innings, but the last of those was August 28. That means he’s almost two months removed from carrying a starter’s workload.
Tony Gonsolin was stretched out to finish the season and could also be leaned on for some innings, but he didn’t pitch at all in the NLDS and has thrown only short stints in the NLCS. His last outing was 39 pitches over two innings on Wednesday, the same night that Julio Urias threw 92 pitches over five innings.
Another option, and probably the best one, would be to have Walker Buehler pitch on short rest. His last outing was on Tuesday, but he threw only 76 pitches after getting chased from the game in the fourth inning.
One way or another, manager Dave Roberts and the rest of the Dodgers’ staff will have to be creative. In order to make it into the World Series, they’ll need to find a way to grind through 18 innings without their best option.