Inside the tumult of the Dodgers clubhouse, shortly after a season-saving victory in Game 4 of a National League division series, Rich Hill appeared perplexed by a series of questions.
“I mean, I’m pitching Thursday,” Hill said, referring to the decisive Game 5 against Washington at Nationals Park. Asked if that meant he was starting, Hill nodded.
This, of course, classified as news. Manager Dave Roberts indicated the team was still deliberating over the decision, which would either be Hill on three days’ rest for the first time in his career as a starter, or 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias.
Informed of Hill’s stance, Andrew Friedman, the president of baseball operations, sounded encouraged by the enthusiasm.
“It’s not decided,” Friedman said. “But that means he really wants it.”
The Dodgers will have all day Wednesday to sort out their pitching plans. Washington will utilize Max Scherzer, who gave up four runs in six innings in Game 1. Hill gave up four runs in 4 1/3 innings in Game 2, victimized by a three-run homer by light-hitting catcher Jose Lobaton.
The Dodgers plan to use a combination of Hill and Urias. Both pitchers could appear in abbreviated duty, like two three-inning stints, before ceding the stage to the bullpen.
The Dodgers’ struggles to hit left-handed pitching is well documented, yet with the score 5-5 and a runner on with two outs in the eighth inning, Nationals Manager Dusty Baker stayed with right-hander Blake Treinen instead of going to left-hander Sammy Solis to face pinch-hitter Andre Ethier and then Chase Utley, both left-handed hitters.
Both Dodgers veterans singled and Utley scored the go-ahead run before Baker summoned Solis to retire Corey Seager.
Credit Howie Kendrick, who didn’t play, with an assist.
Baker explained after the game that he didn’t want to bring a tired Solis unless it was an emergency situation, because he knew the Dodgers could counter by pinch-hitting Kendrick, who has been, in Baker’s words, “hitting lights out.”
Baker added: “You’ve got to pick your poison. You know … didn’t work.”
Solis has appeared in every game in the series.
In the second inning, Clayton Kershaw struck out Danny Espinosa looking. In the fourth inning he got him swinging.
But with the Dodgers up, 5-2, and Kershaw still going in the seventh, the former Santa Ana Mater Dei High star singled to left field, his first hit in 10 at-bats this series. Before that, he was hitless with eight strikeouts.
The hit fueled a three-run rally that tied the score, but only because Espinosa later hustled on the basepaths.
He was still at first base with two outs when Trea Turner hit a ground ball to the left of Dodgers shortstop Seager, who fielded it cleanly but couldn’t get his throw to second base fast enough to beat Espinosa.
What followed was a walk to load the bases, a hit batter to score a run and a two-run single.
“That was a big play by Danny beating that throw to second base,” Baker said.
Baker has often been asked why he has been sticking with his slumping shortstop, but Espinosa said, “Dusty has told me a million times I’m his guy, and he’s the one who makes out the lineup.”
Espinosa said spreading out his batting stance helped him be “on time,” during his final two at-bats. He lined out to right-fielder Yasiel Puig in the eighth inning.
He added that playing a postseason series close to his home in Orange County hadn’t put extra pressure on him to perform.
“It actually feels good to be home and see my family and see my wife and baby,” he said.
In the hours leading up to Game 4, there were dozens of tickets available on the ticket reselling site StubHub for as little as $6.
That’s what happens when the time for a playoff game isn’t determined until about 14 hours before it was scheduled to start, and then that time is 2 p.m. on a Tuesday
Most fans went to bed Monday night not knowing whether the game would start at 2 p.m. or 5 p.m. It was pushed to the early spot when the San Francisco Giants stayed alive in the other NLDS series by defeating the Chicago Cubs in extra innings. That game didn’t finish until after midnight.
Lasorda is hospitalized
Roberts is the second Dodgers manager to guide the team to a division championship in his first season. The other, Tommy Lasorda, has been in a hospital recently because of various ailments.
Lasorda was still in a hospital Tuesday, a day after he told the Times he was feeling better and expected to be released soon.