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Brandon McCarthy struggles as Dodgers get more playoff roster clarity

SAN FRANCISCO -- The Los Angeles Dodgers moved one small step closer to deciding a playoff roster spot, when Brandon McCarthy appeared to involuntarily remove himself from consideration.

The right-hander, who made a valiant effort to return from Tommy John surgery and join the Dodgers in July, was the night watchman on duty Friday night when a close game turned into a San Francisco Giants runaway.

McCarthy faced six batters and failed to record an out in the Giants' seven-run sixth inning that led to a 9-3 win for San Francisco. The inning opened with a walk and was followed by two singles, two doubles and another single. McCarthy turned in an infinity ERA for the night as all six batters he faced eventually scored.

The veteran was a long shot for the National League Division Series roster anyway, as the club seems to have settled on rookie Julio Urias as a possible fourth starter against the Washington Nationals, if the team needs one. McCarthy's relief experience is limited and Friday's outing did him no favors.

"I certainly hope so," McCarthy said when asked if he still has a chance to participate in the postseason. "The auditioning, if you are auditioning to be a starter, is hard to do when it's the sixth inning. But otherwise, you still have to go out and earn a spot no matter where it is. ... On that front that was a complete whiff tonight, but that wasn't indicative. It didn't feel like I was beaten or didn't have any answers, I just got hit."

The Dodgers will have to cut 15 players from the current group by the time the NLDS opens next Friday. One more Nationals victory, or one more Dodgers defeat, would secure home-field advantage for the Nats and send the Dodgers to the nation's capital for the first two games, and a potential Game 5.

Josh Ravin, who is not eligible for postseason consideration, allowed two of the runners he inherited from McCarthy to score and gave up a run himself on a Brandon Belt home run.

Other Dodgers players who don't figure to make the NLDS roster include Chris Taylor, Rob Segedin, Micah Johnson, Brett Anderson, Brock Stewart and Austin Barnes. Decisions start getting tougher after that. The left-handed duo of Luis Avilan and J.P. Howell is on the fence, as is right-hander Louis Coleman. And while a veteran bat like Andre Ethier's has value, his lack of playing time this season could cost him.

"All year long we have been talking about our depth, but at some point, it will come to a head where you have to ultimately make a decision to get down to 25," manager Dave Roberts said. "I think that these are good problems to have. There will be conversations we will have, but we're still trying to win."

While catching the Nationals would be nice, Roberts' main objective in recent days seems to have been playing solid baseball while getting much of the roster some action. On Friday, the Dodgers seemed to come at the Giants with a sense of urgency that was lost once the Giants posted their big inning.

But the evaluation period that started in San Diego and has moved on to San Francisco continued. Charlie Culberson has received extended playing time since his dramatic division-clinching home run Sunday, while Enrique Hernandez and Carlos Ruiz also are getting playing time.

And after the Giants' big sixth inning, Roberts made wholesale changes with Taylor at third base, Hernandez at shortstop, Johnson in left field and Barnes at second.

What will go into Roberts' decisions for the final roster spots?

"Obviously, the entire body of the season has some weight to it, but how you're performing, finishing the season, should have an impact," Roberts said. "It is just three games, but to play the Giants, here in this environment, against a team that is playing for something while facing good pitching, yeah, we're still evaluating."

Dodgers starter Rich Hill knows his spot is secure. He will be the Dodgers' starter in Game 2 against the Nationals, and in his final tune-up Friday he recovered from a slow first inning to move into October with some momentum. He gave up two runs and six hits over five innings and threw 82 pitches.

"I'm looking forward to [the playoffs]," Hill said. "I can't say that I'm satisfied, but the way that I felt, and getting through those five innings, felt stronger as the game went on and there was an understanding that there was a point where they wanted to keep myself fresh to move on to the playoffs."