Dodgers sit back as Cubs, Na­tion­als keep bat­tling

Orlando Sentinel - - BASEBALL / SOCCER - By Andy McCul­lough

LOS AN­GE­LES — A few min­utes be­fore Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts hopped on a con­fer­ence call Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon, he watched a baseball take flight on a tele­vi­sion screen.

A grand slam by Na­tion­als out­fielder Michael Tay­lor against Cubs closer Wade Davis in the eighth in­ning at Wrigley Field all but as­sured a Game 5 of a Na­tional League Di­vi­sion Se­ries at Na­tion­als Park on Thurs­day. Roberts did not mind the sight. Roberts laughed when asked how many in­nings he hoped his two prospec­tive op­po­nents would play in the elim­i­na­tion game.

“Can’t be high enough,” Roberts said. “It’s go­ing to be a fun Game 5 to watch.”

The Dodgers earned the priv­i­lege of rest by com­plet­ing a sweep of the Di­a­mond­backs on Mon­day in Phoenix. They will host Game 1 of the Na­tional League Cham­pi­onship Se­ries on Satur­day. The team will take four days to re­cu­per­ate from the stress of the first round and pre­pare for the seven-game se­ries.

Roberts de­clined to re­veal much about the team’s plan­ning for the next round. Clayton Ker­shaw will start Game 1. Beyond that, Roberts stayed mum.

Against the Di­a­mond­backs, Rich Hill started Game 2 and Yu Darvish started Game 3 be­cause Hill ex­celled at home and Darvish on the road. Alex Wood was lined up for Game 4. Roberts sug­gested the Dodgers may stick with that align­ment, but it would not be fi­nal­ized be­fore the team knew its op­po­nent.

“To set it in stone right now makes no sense,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers will wait to see how left-handed re­liever Luis Avi­lan’s sore shoul­der re­sponds this week. Avi­lan was not cleared to pitch in the first round but could be an op­tion to lengthen the bullpen in the next round. The Cubs em­ploy more left-handed hit­ters than the Na­tion­als, which could also play a fac­tor, Roberts said.

“Is there a po­ten­tial that we make an­other ros­ter change that we feel might ben­e­fit us? It’s a pos­si­bil­ity still,” Roberts said.

The Dodgers faced the Na­tion­als and the Cubs in the post­sea­son last year. A five-game se­ries with the Na­tion­als drained the Dodgers, who re­quired Ker­shaw to pitch in re­lief for the save in the fi­nal game. The Dodgers ran out of steam against the Cubs and made a bevy of mis­takes to lose in six games.

Un­like last sea­son, the Dodgers hold home-field ad­van­tage this Oc­to­ber. It is a spoil of their reg­u­larsea­son supremacy, and an­other rea­son for them to feel com­fort­able as the Cubs and Na­tion­als pre­pared to play Thurs­day. A long flight to the West Coast awaited the win­ner, where they would meet a Dodgers team with its ro­ta­tion lined up and its bullpen rested.

“Be­ing able to set your ro­ta­tion, not hav­ing to travel the first two games of the se­ries, I think are huge ad­van­tages,” Roberts said. “That’s the byprod­uct of hav­ing the sea­son that we had. To be at home, and watch games, and see how things work out and go through work­outs the next few days, we’re in a good place.”

NLDS: Cubs vs. Na­tion­als Game 1: Game 2: Game 3: Game 4: Game 5: NORM HALL/GETTY

As the Cubs and Na­tion­als went to a Game 5, Dodgers man­ager Dave Roberts was able to let his team rest. Cubs 3, Na­tion­als 0 Na­tion­als 6, Cubs 3 Cubs 2, Na­tion­als 1 Na­tion­als 5, Cubs 0 at Na­tion­als, late

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