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Rich Hill will start Game 5 for Dodgers, but Julio Urias won't be far behind

Rich Hill will start Game 5 for Dodgers, but Julio Urias won't be far behind
Pitchers Rich Hill, left, and Julio Urias are expected to play a role for the Dodgers in Game 5 of their playoff series against Washington. (Alex Brandon / Associated Press; Denis Poroy / Getty Images)

On Thursday morning, the Dodgers confirmed what Rich Hill already announced on Tuesday evening: Hill will start tonight in Game 5 of the National League division series against Max Scherzer and the Washington Nationals.

Hill will be the first Dodger to pitch. But he will be far from the last.

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Working on three days of rest, Hill will not be asked to shoulder a 110-pitch load like Clayton Kershaw did in Game 4. He may only go one turn through the Nationals lineup, before handing the baseball over to the bullpen.

Manager Dave Roberts described a “collection of arms” ready for the series finale. The principal weapon in the bullpen is 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias, who is expected to follow Hill to the mound at some point. It may not, however, be a direct succession.

The Nationals sport a top-heavy lineup. The Dodgers worry far more about the first four hitters in the lineup – Trea Turner, Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth and Daniel Murphy – than they do the final four (with all apologies to Anthony Rendon, who is a good hitter). Both Harper and Murphy bat left-handed, and the Dodgers do not want them to face right-handed pitchers on Thursday besides closer Kenley Jansen and perhaps set-up man Joe Blanton.

So expect Hill to face Harper and Murphy once, maybe twice. If he can handle a second turn against them, he might get the assignment. Or the Dodgers could ask Urias to face Harper and Murphy on the second turn through the lineup.

One thing to keep an eye on: Urias is not experienced as a reliever. The Dodgers will be sure to give him plenty of time to heat up. That means they will potentially trust Josh Fields, Luis Avilan or Pedro Baez to handle a couple outs in the second inning, third inning or whichever inning looks like Hill’s last. The team will probably not send Urias into the middle of an inning with traffic on the bases.

It's a complicated strategy, and one that Roberts will need to execute with care. He left his team in a rough spot in Game 4 when Kershaw exited the stages with the bases loaded. Baez entered the game, rather than Blanton, and a three-run lead soon disappeared. The team hopes to avoid a repeat on Game 5. There may be no tomorrow.

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