HOUSTON -- After burning through eight relief pitchers in Game 2 and sending five more to the mound on Friday night at Minute Maid Park in Game 3 of the World Series, Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts faced the inevitable questions regarding the state of his bullpen after a 5-3 loss dropped the Dodgers into a 2-1 hole against the Houston Astros.
With left-hander Alex Wood scheduled to get the start on Saturday, the concerns are valid. Wood has made just one start this postseason, allowing three runs and four hits with seven strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings of Game 4 in the National League Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs. The Dodgers dropped that game 3-2, their lone loss of that series.
Excluding right-hander Kenta Maeda, who worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings in Game 3, Roberts declared each member of his bullpen available for action in what will be a pivotal Game 4.
"Well, we just had an off-day yesterday," Roberts said. "And when your starter (right-hander Yu Darvish) goes five outs, you've got to find a way to cover some innings. Everyone tomorrow is available, outside of Kenta. And Alex is going to have to go deep.
"But I think, like I said, everyone is available, and we've got Kersh (ace left-hander Clayton Kershaw) going Game 5. They'll be available. They'll be fine."
Wood will face a pressure-packed outing but is equipped for the challenge. He paced the majors in winning percentage after finishing 16-3 with a career-best 2.72 ERA in 27 appearances (25 starts). His 3.3 WAR represented the second-best mark of his career, trailing the 3.7 WAR he produced with the Atlanta Braves while finishing 11-11 with a 2.78 ERA in 2014.
Relative postseason inexperience aside, Wood gets the ball with the Dodgers on the brink of a daunting deficit should they lose, yet buoyed by the opportunity to start instead of relieve.
"I feel fortunate that I'm finally getting to start in the postseason," Wood said. "My three previous postseason experiences have all been out of the bullpen. So really my first start against the Cubs in the postseason, I felt way more comfortable, not really much nerves. Just seemed like another game with a little bit of higher expectations for yourself and a little bit more pressure.
"But I felt really comfortable in Chicago. If you can feel comfortable there, you can feel comfortable anywhere. So I'm really excited about the opportunity tomorrow."
For the second time this postseason, Astros manager A.J. Hinch parlayed a tandem outing to positive results, riding right-handers Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock to victory in Game 3 after doing the same with Charlie Morton and McCullers in Game 7 of the American League Championship Series. Morton gets his first World Series start on Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
With Peacock, who made 21 starts for the Astros during the regular season, covering the final 3 2/3 innings with hitless relief, Hinch was able to avoid dipping into his beleaguered corps of full-time relievers. The possibility exists for Hinch to execute the same gambit Saturday, with right-hander Collin McHugh poised to finish what the Astros hope is a strong start by Morton.
Despite the obvious call to allow Peacock to continue his stellar pitching, Hinch was asked if his shaky bullpen, and a presumed lack of confidence in it, played a role in his decision. With the Astros one win from taking a stranglehold on the series, he was adamant that his bullpen arms are capable of playing a role in a Game 4 triumph.
"It's about getting 27 outs," Hinch said. "At this point, if they didn't see Peacock pitching well, then they should watch the game, too. I love our bullpen, and our bullpen is going to get outs, but this is a race to 27 outs with a lead. When a guy is doing his job, there's only so much explanation I need to give."