Thursday, September 26, 2013

Did Nolasco pitch his way out of an NLDS start?

Ricky Nolasco took one last start in the regular season on Wednesday night in San Francisco, looking to erase some bad vibes from his previous two starts.

The result?  Uh, not good.

The Giants had little trouble hitting him around in a 6-4 win, as he gave up six runs on eight hits in 5 2/3 innings.  The only good news was that he struck out seven and only walked one, but it hardly mattered.  He's been hit around really hard his last three trips to the mound, and now the question has to be if he'll even get a start in October.

It's a pretty big turnaround from his first 12 starts with the Dodgers after coming over from the Marlins.  In those he went 8-1 with a 1.82 ERA, and in 10 of those starts he surrendered two or less earned runs.  And let me tell you, he sure looked like he was going to overtake Hyun-Jin Ryu for that Game 3 start, because his stuff looked incredible.

And then came the start he made at home on Saturday, September 14 against the Giants in which he was absolutely shelled.  He only lasted four outs, giving up seven runs (five earned) on seven hits, walking three, and recorded no strikeouts.  Boy was he bad that night.

The hope was that that game would be an anomaly, but thus far, it sure hasn't looked like it.  The Diamondbacks got to him for six runs in five innings on September 19, and then last night's game against the Giants.  Add up those three starts, and he's 0-2 with a 12.75 ERA.  Talk about a big dropoff.

So, let's pose the question right now: Will Nolasco get a start in the NLDS?

One thing that we have to keep in mind is that the NLDS schedule plays a big factor in Don Mattingly's decision when to use his pitchers.  While the times will need to be worked out, the days the games occur has been set: October 3, 4, 6, 7, and 9.  In looking at this, Clayton Kershaw will make a Game 1 start, then go on Game 5 if necessary on five day's rest.  Zack Greinke will go in Game 2 and could also pitch in Game 5 since he'd be on four day's rest.  But, I can't imagine him getting the call over Kershaw.

With that in mind, it appears as if Mattingly will have to use four separate starters in the NLDS, as the schedule, barring a rainout, won't allow anything different.  So, Nolasco looks to be in good shape to at least be a candidate for a Game 4 start.  Being a candidate and actually getting the start are two different things, though.

I'm not sure anybody thought they'd see this happen, but Volquez's start tonight against the Giants could play a big part in who gets an NLDS start.  I would say Nolasco is still the clear favorite, but say Volquez pitches a gem, would Mattingly make the switch?  I'm not so sure, it's something to keep in mind.

Mattingly did say after Wednesday's game that he's not concerned about Nolasco, and perhaps he's being completely honest.  It's just a shame how bad Nolasco's timing is, as the last thing the Dodgers need is to be in a must-win game with a guy on the mound they lack confidence in. 

But then again, the Dodgers may not have any other choice than to take their chances.  We will see.

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