WASHINGTON -- The Dodgers named Rich Hill their starter for tonight's winner-take-all Game 5 of the National League Division Series in Washington (8 p.m. ET/5 PT, FS1). But there's a good chance he'll be the club's "starting pitcher" in title only.
Los Angeles is fully prepared to turn Thursday into a bullpen game, and manager Dave Roberts confirmed as much following Tuesday's 6-5 victory when he said "it's going to be a collection of arms" pitching for the Dodgers in Game 5.
The veteran left-hander Hill has never started on short rest in his career and has spent the past two months battling a blister on his pitching hand. With that in mind, the Dodgers will be ready to call on their bullpen at the first sign of trouble.
"It's that time of year; nobody gets off-days," said veteran reliever Joe Blanton, who pitched 1 1/3 crucial scoreless frames on Tuesday. "Maybe the starting pitcher that threw the day before -- and that's it. Guys are willing to do whatever, whether it's multiple innings as a reliever or one out. There might be three, four relievers used in an inning. ... It's going to be all hands on deck."
The thing is, the Dodgers don't need a singular effort to beat Scherzer. They have an off-day Wednesday, and a potential off-day Friday, meaning Roberts has just about every pitcher on his staff -- with the likely exception of Kershaw -- at his disposal.
"He's done a really good job putting us in the right spots, matching us up with who he thinks we'll do well against," left-hander Grant Dayton said of Roberts. "The Nationals' lineup is a really tough lineup, so I think he's doing a real good job with the matchups. Then, it's up to us to execute."
In Games 1 and 2 in Washington, the Dodgers' relief corps did exactly that before faltering twice in Los Angeles. During the regular season, the Dodgers' bullpen posted a 3.35 ERA, the lowest mark in the Majors.
Los Angeles relievers also combined for 590 2/3 innings, which led the big leagues -- meaning the Dodgers are well versed in navigating multiple high-leverage frames.
"We're definitely ready for anything," Dayton said. "If it's a bullpen game, it doesn't matter. We stay ready the whole game. This is the most intense baseball I've ever played, and for a lot of the guys, it's the same thing."
Roberts said it's "fair" to expect both Hill and rookie left-hander Julio Urias to pitch in Game 5. But if the Dodgers find themselves in a big moment early on, it's possible they play a matchup game.
There is, after all, very little margin for error in winner-take-all baseball -- especially against Scherzer and a Nats relief corps whose ERA was second only to the Dodgers this year.
"The Nationals won't quit, and for us to win the World Series, [we've] just got to fight and not let anything outside bother us," said closer Kenley Jansen, who responded to a rocky Game 3 with a perfect ninth inning on Tuesday. "We each just have to do our part and trust the process, all 25 guys."
AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.