|Dodgers searching for No. 4 starter as they host Rays|
The Los Angeles Dodgers will play their last game against a playoff contender on Wednesday when they face the visiting Tampa Bay Rays and figure to use the opportunity to once again test some postseason strategies.
Dodgers rookie right-hander Tony Gonsolin (3-2, 2.83 ERA) is expected to start Wednesday as the Dodgers continue to search for a No. 4 starter in case they advance to the National League Championship Series.
Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Walker Buehler have set starting roles for the playoffs, and if a fourth starter is needed, the Dodgers have finally tipped their hand how they will handle it.
"That (fourth rotation) spot is very cloudy right now," manager Dave Roberts said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "I would just say this: I can see that Game 4 being a little unconventional."
Right-hander Ross Stripling pitched two innings against the Rays on Tuesday, but did not start the game as expected. Roberts used three pitchers over the first three innings before turning it over to Stripling. The Dodgers used eight pitchers total while earning a 7-5 victory.
It is possible that the Dodgers use Gonsolin in a similar fashion Wednesday. Gonsolin, who has never faced the Rays, pitched three innings of relief Thursday at Baltimore after making five consecutive starts. He gave up one run on two hits with four strikeouts.
Rays rookie left-hander Brendan McKay could also be auditioning for a role in the bullpen if Tampa Bay advances to the postseason. The Rays are expected to get right-hander Yonny Chirinos back soon after a right middle finger injury, with a role in the bullpen expected.
But if Chirinos has a setback or is ineffective, McKay could get the call, with the club's top prospect pitching in relief.
McKay (2-4, 5.27) has never faced the Dodgers, but he did pitch at Dodger Stadium for Team USA in 2015. He has been held to around 60 pitches in each of his last three starts. McKay gave up three runs on six hits in 3 1/3 innings Thursday against the Texas Rangers, taking the loss.
Not only is Chirinos likely back by the weekend, but infielder Brandon Lowe (shin, quadriceps) could be back by next week as well.
The Rays begin play Wednesday holding the AL's second wild card, but by only one-half game over Cleveland. The Rays trail Oakland, which holds the first wild card, by two games.
Leadoff man Tommy Pham is also dealing with right hand and elbow injuries, but he will play through the pain. Pham admitted to the Tampa Bay Times that if it was at any point of the season other than a September playoff charge, he likely would be out of action.
"Tommy's been nicked up pretty good here the last two months and just appreciate that he wants to be out there because he knows what a presence he is in our lineup," Rays manager Kevin Cash said, according to the Tampa Bay Times.
The Rays' Austin Meadows will enter the game on a 15-game hitting streak, four off the longest in franchise history. Tampa Bay has lost consecutive games and is 3-4 on its road trip.
At 98-54, the Dodgers have a 21-game lead on the Arizona Diamondbacks, their largest division lead in franchise history. The Dodgers close the season against the Rockies, Padres and Giants.
--Field Level Media