Critical factors include bullpen fatigue, Turner's threat as basestealer
By Jack Baer
LOS ANGELES -- Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday (5 or 8 p.m. ET/2 or 5 p.m. PT on FS1) will feature a wealth of matchups to keep an eye on with the Nationals on the cusp of their first NLCS since moving to Washington and the Dodgers on the brink of elimination. Here's a closer look at three of them:
It's no secret the Dodgers have struggled against left-handed pitchers. Their .622 OPS against lefties ranked last in the Majors this season. That won't immediately come up Tuesday with right-hander Joe Ross on the mound to start for the Nationals, but it could play a major role late in the game when the bullpens take over.
The three lefties in the Nationals' bullpen have combined to allow just three hits in 6 1/3 scoreless innings this series -- including 4 2/3 in Monday's 8-3 win in Game 3 -- and will face a Dodgers lineup loaded with lefties. They could be the three most important weapons for Nationals manager Dusty Baker to deploy.
"It's all about taking good at-bats and not trying to do too much," Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. "I think when you try to do too much or get out of character, that's when things go sideways on you. If we get the results out of our head and just focus on, you know, taking a quality at-bat, I think we're going to have success."
Turner has been held to just one stolen base in three games this series, a somewhat low total given his 33 steals in 73 games this season, but he could face a major challenge with the superstar lefty on the mound. His presence will matter more to Turner than who's behind the plate, likely Yasmani Grandal.
"I never really look at the catcher, just mostly the pitchers and just see if I can pick up anything," Turner said before the series. "If I can, then good. If I can't, then we'll have to see when it comes to game time."
Kershaw leads the Majors in pickoffs since he entered the league in 2008.
Bullpens vs. fatigue
According to Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, it will be all hands on deck for his bullpen, which has thrown 10 2/3 innings in the last two days. That includes consecutive appearances by Pedro Baez, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, and Josh Fields, along with a four-run outing by Kenley Jansen on Monday.
The Nationals are in a similar position, having had to fill 4 2/3 innings for both Sunday and Monday.
Neither team expected to play three games in three days this series -- thanks to Saturday's rainout -- and both chose to go with a seven-man bullpen. Baker said Monday that had he known they would be playing in three consecutive games, they likely would have carried an extra arm.
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.