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 Washington Nationals outfielder Michael A. Taylor against Chicago 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 Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday at 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 its roster 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 Arizona, Rich Hill started Game 2 and Yu Darvish started Game 3, because Hill excelled at home and Darvish excelled 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. "Without digging into matchups, home-road, weather, things like that."
The Dodgers will await to see how left-handed reliever Luis Avilan's sore shoulder responds as the week continues. 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 Washington and Chicago 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 deciding game. The Dodgers ran out of steam against Chicago 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 regular-season 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."