Will youth be served in deciding Game 5?

valenzuela-81-mugBy Mark Langill

Two hours before he would be throwing out the ceremonial first pitch at Dodger Stadium on the 50th anniversary of his World Series-clinching shutout, former Brooklyn left-hander Johnny Podres was asked in 2005 if he would’ve been more nervous entering Game 7 of the 1955 Fall Classic at Yankee Stadium if he knew a half-century of celebration was at stake.

“Nah,” he replied with a shoulder shrug, puffing on a cigarette while sitting on a hotel luggage cart. “When you’re that young … you think you can do anything.”

At age 23, Podres blanked the New York Yankees, 2-0, as the Dodgers won their first and only championship in the history of the Brooklyn franchise.

The modern-day Dodgers face an all-or-nothing proposition in Game 5 of the National League Division Series at Washington. Nationals manager Dusty Baker has an easy choice for starting pitcher – 20-game winner Max Scherzer – while L.A.’s Dave Roberts has a pair of lefties at his disposal – veteran Rich Hill and 20-year-old rookie Julio Urias.

In Los Angeles history, the Dodgers have a 4-1 record in postseason series that go the distance, the only blemish a 3-2 loss in last year’s Game 5 against the Mets in the NLDS at Dodger Stadium.

The role of Urias is the dilemma for Roberts, facing a similar question as Baker did as a rookie manager with the 1993 San Francisco Giants. Needing a victory on the final day of the regular season to force a one-game playoff with Atlanta, Baker started 21-year-old rookie Solomon Torres (3-4, 3.70 ERA), who had been called up from Triple-A in late August to be eligible for the team’s postseason roster if necessary. Baker remembered as a player with the 1980 Dodgers wanting manager Tom Lasorda to start a 19-year-old rookie against Houston in a one-game playoff. Lasorda chose Dave Goltz (7-10, 4.28 ERA) over Fernando Valenzuela, a September callup who hadn’t allowed an earned run in 17 2/3 innings but had yet to make a Major League start (and had been used twice that weekend in relief for four total innings against the Astros). Torres lasted only 3 1/3 innings, and the Dodgers coasted to a 12-1 victory.

Valenzuela became a household name in 1981, winning both Rookie of the Year and Cy Young Award honors as the Dodgers won the championship. He started the deciding Game 5 of the National League Championship Series at Montreal, scattering one run on three hits in 8 2/3 innings, but left the game with a 2-1 lead after issuing a pair of two-out walks.

Lasorda summoned Bob Welch from the bullpen to face Jerry White, who grounded out to second baseman Davey Lopes. It was the second career postseason save for Welch, primarily a starter during his 17-year career. Welch’s other save occurred as a 21-year-old rookie in the 1978 World Series when he struck out the Yankees’ Reggie Jackson to preserve a 4-3 victory in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium.

2 Comments

Something tells me Hill will start but won’t be the hero.

If Hill can give 4-5 innings and 1 or less runs, that’s about the most you can asked from him.

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