Boldly and not without risk, Dodgers push Clayton Kershaw into Game 4 start

My reactions to the official news that Clayton Kershaw will start Game 4 of the National League Division Series tonight are complicated.

It’s not that I don’t see the obvious, that Kershaw, even on short rest, seems preferable to Ricky Nolasco when it comes down to one game.

It’s not that I don’t see that Zack Greinke is still available to pitch Game 5 on Wednesday, if necessary.

But you’re also trading one unknown (how Nolasco will do after his long layoff) for another (how Kershaw will do on his first short-rest start ever). And the latter unknown includes a heightened wear-and-tear risk.

And there’s the problematic issue that even if the Dodgers win tonight, they are kicking a pretty big can down the road: a seeming lack of confidence in anyone beyond their top two starters.

What will Kershaw’s pitch limit be, after throwing 124 pitches on Thursday? You know that Atlanta is going to try to make him work. You know that in all likelihood, you’ll need the bullpen to close this game out.

Kershaw is going to need to throw strikes. He’s going to need to have his best control, and he’s going to need that despite not having his regular time off.

For all the attention this is getting, the Dodgers’ fate might rest as much as anything on whether they can turn Freddy Garcia’s Game 4 start into child’s play.  If the Dodgers score, it won’t matter much who started for them.

I think this boils down to a belief that Kershaw won’t be negatively affected by the shortened rest. If you believe in that, there’s little reason not to support using him. But if you have fears about short-rest starts, it’s going to be an uneasy time.

My belief in Clayton Kershaw is pretty close to limitless, but that’s why I was fine to let Nolasco wade into Game 4. Because with Kershaw on the mound in a close-out game on full rest — that’s as good an scenario as you can paint. Whereas I see the potential tonight for Kershaw to have to leave inside of six innings, the Dodgers losing and a lot of pressure on Greinke to win somewhere he lost five days earlier.

But it’s a tough call. Whatever happens, I will not second-guess the Dodgers’ choice unless I find out that there was the slightest physical concern about Kershaw.

 

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    “For all the attention this is getting, the Dodgers’ fate might rest as much as anything on whether they can turn Freddy Garcia’s Game 4 start into child’s play.”

    Considering this, do you think if the Dodgers score a good amount of runs early you could pull Kershaw and perhaps let Nolasco pitch a few innings?

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      Judging by Kershaw pitching into the seventh w/124 pitches and a big lead last game, I don’t think so.

      • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

        I’m just imagining a scenario where say the Dodgers are up 5-0 after getting 5 innings from Kershaw, don’t you start thinking about resting him a bit?

        • http://farinella.com/ David Farinella

          For sure… I keep thinking that one of the main reasons this is OK (not that it matters) to me is that Garcia is pitching. Kinda surprised the Braves haven’t countered.

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          That’s a little different from what you described, because that’s not a scenario where Nolasco pitches “a few innings.”

          • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

            Sorry, I guess I worded it wrong.

  • John_from_Aus

    I don’t like it, but I guess we just have to trust the medical staff and Clayton himself that he is good to go risk free

    • scooplew

      All of the trips to the DL this year (and, to lesser degree, in 2012) could simply be bad luck, great cautiousness, or problems with the medical analyses. Or some combination of the above.

  • scooplew

    I think starting Kershaw on three days of rest (whcih he has never done before), after his pitching 124 innings on Thursday, when we’re up two games to one, is a truly terrible decision. If it ain’t broke, why fix it? Neither the Braves nor the Cardinals, each down two games to one, are moving up their ace when a case could be made for doing that. Also, what is the message to Nolasco? If we advance to the NLCS, we will need him to start…..I hope that I am dead wrong about tonight’s pitching decision.

    • rumped6

      Dilbeck of the Times offered Sanford Koufax’s work against the Twins in ’65, on two days
      rest, as support for this risk.
      How many more games did Sandy pitch? A year’s worth, in great distress? Retired at 30?

      This is the “try-’em-out, and wear-’em-out” approach of Joe Torre, too much influenced by
      his own playing days.

      Even if this approach succeeds short-term, no one will know (especially the doubtful Dodgers’ medical/training staffs) the long-term underlying anatomic consequences (unless Clayton goes on for years at current levels of effectiveness).

      Additionally, my own bias in team games is for many heroes, not a few. As Jon mentioned,
      why not see if rest has returned Ricky to a good place? Entirely possible, unless he’s somehow damaged physically). If it hasn’t, you’ve still got your ace for game 5 (and he may need his normal rest more than normally after 124 pitches in muggy Hotlanta).

      Not only a poor CBA, says here, but an unnecessary one, especially considering Freddy G
      is the mound choice for the Braves.

      Fingers crossed for Clayton….

      • scooplew

        Also, Koufax pitched on two days of rest in 1965 because it was the seventh game of the World Series — the ultimate do or die game in baseball. I don’t think Alston would have pitched him on two days of rest in the sixth game of that series when the Dodgers were up three games to two. (Pitchers went on three days of rest in those days, so pitching Kershaw on three days of rest is the equivalent to pitching Koufax on two.)

  • LKFojtik

    This is ridiculous. Let the home-town (Rialto) guy pitch. We should be saving Kershaw for the NLCS Game 1. Over-manage much?

  • Mm

    Looking at Nolasco’s #’s versus Brave hitters are horrifying.. especially against Mccann. wow.But kershaw starting on short rest + his last outing was one of the longest of his career + most stressful. There are arguments both ways. Basically it’s the playoffs and I’m going to get overly cautious/nervous/naseous about everything.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Just got an earful of F-bombs on MLB network from Balfour and Martinez.

    • John_from_Aus

      Just noticed on gameday that there was an on field delay and I wondered why :)
      Balfour won’t back down, he’s a tough Aussie :)

      • ASW1

        He was ready to tear Victor Martinez’s head off. Why? For standing at the plate with a bat in his hands!
        Balfour one pumped-up dude.

  • David Bartholomew

    This is so tough. I think it gives us a better chance to win this series and that is worth some amount of risk. There has to be slight concern here, though. Thursday night was pressure packed and any pitcher would see an increased injury risk with less recovery time. Clayton throws so hard.

  • NoahUCLA

    Maybe Mattingly also thought there would be a chance of having to use Kershaw in relief tonight? Cap and Paco are unavailble (for different reasons), and in a close game, 4 innings from Beli, Withrow and Howell (who probably is only a lefty specialist tonight) to get to the back end of the bullpen is less than ideal to say the least and has its own possiblities of overuse and injury. It’s not an easy decision, I agree. I don’t want to go back to Atlanta no matter who I have on the mound.

  • RBI

    Yikes. I really was thinking Nolasco would wind up pitching the game of a lifetime, and now I have to recalibrate everything. I have to think Kershaw was fine with this, if not pushing for it? If we win, this flips the one-two pitchers for the next round, right? So many questions. The only thing I do know, is Mattingly is putting everything on the line, managerially speaking, with this decision.

    • ASW1

      This wasn’t Mattingly’s decision by himself – no way – Colletti, Kershaw, Honeycutt, Kasten etc. etc – I’m sure they all had input.

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        Agreed, ASW.

        • RBI

          I’m curious. Do you think the pressure came from the top down or the bottom up – now reading that RH, and maybe DM, was against this?

          • John_from_Aus

            If this is true, I am against it even more

          • ASW1

            Last night :

            “He’s our future,” Honeycutt told The Times. “You don’t want to mess around with it.”

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

            I don’t think “pressure” is a factor. Sounds like everyone wanted this to happen but they were just playing cards close to vest. They deliberated but I don’t get sense people weren’t on same page.

          • RBI

            Makes sense.

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      also sets up Kershaw for Game 1 of the WS if we go that far

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        Until they juggle things again … and again …

  • NoahUCLA

    I’m glad we’re not facing Wacha tonight. St. Louis has a really good looking team. I really hope the Pirates put them away (beware of what you wish for of course).

  • TPruett

    Greetings from 37,000 feet, en route to Washington, DC… I’m as old school as the next guy, and yes, I have a special memory of Sandy Koufax pitching a game 7 against Minnesota in 1965 to give the Blue the World Series. But that was GAME 7, The WORLD SERIES. Win or die. The Dodgers have a 2-1 lead. Their offense is coming off a 13 run performance and facing the not-so-immortal Freddy Garcia. You throw Nolasco tonight…if you lose, you have Kershaw on full rest Wednesday…if you win, Kershaw is set to pitch the opener of the NLCS on Friday. This smacks of a total panic move: either Mattingly, or Coletti, or both, is squeezing it, big time. So Let’s say Kershaw loses…well, ok, Greinke is a good bet in a Game 5…but then who starts Game 1 of the NLCS? Vincente Padilla? Howie Reed? Al Downing? Or…Kershaw…once AGAIN on 3 days rest. I’ve got a bad feeling about this…..

    • NoahUCLA

      But who starts game 2 of the NLCS if Kershaw pitches game 5? That’s not a big issue in my mind. It’s what Jon said about Kerhsaw’s health. If you’re not worried too much about the arm, then it’s a no brainer in my mind. Put your best guy out there. Also, there is a huge difference between 2 days rest for Sandy and 3 days for Kershaw. I think this is his bullpen session day anyway, if I’m not mistaken.

  • Jason Ungar

    If you have a better chance to end the series at home then you do. Grienke was beat in Atlanta, so i’d hate to rely on that. they win at a .691 clip at home in 2013 and .494 on road. in 25 innings in September Nolasco has an era of 6.66 and the NL hit .300 off him. For his career, Nolasco in 132 IP has a 5.11 era off ATL and they hit .305…

  • dalegribel

    I’m in favor of the move. I’d much rather have Kershaw on short plus then Greinke if necessary instead of Nolaso plus Kershaw if necessary. One win away from series victory the Dodgers have to try to win as soon a possible instead of turning into a one game series.

    • http://web.me.com/kakitadoug/geekblog/Blog/Blog.html DougS

      I agree. In a 5-game playoff series, you can’t take your foot off of the accelerator. You can’t ease up if you’re up 2-1 in the series, figuring that you can afford to lose one. Because if you do lose and it’s 2-2, the next game is an elimination game. If you can close it out in Game 4, by all means, do so.

  • danreines

    Pretty captivating stuff happening over in St. Louis.

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      They’re in Pittsburgh, but it is very interesting indeed.

      • danreines

        Ah yes. In Pittsburgh. But still…

        • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

          Well, Alvarez put an emphatic end to that.

      • danreines

        still interesting, even now.

  • TPruett

    Well, I hope Clayton proves me wrong. The Big Guy…and this team…have done so many times over this year…

  • NoahUCLA

    That was special no hit stuff from a 22 year old before Alvarez ended it. I don’t want to face that guy.

    • danreines

      Yeah but let’s see him do it three times in a row. (Let’s not.)

  • ASW1

    Great AB by Russell Martin there.

  • Benzojones

    I for one thing the Dodgers did it just to see what title you’d give this one; Kershutthefrontdoor, Kershiaonara, or in honor of the lakers and magic Kershowtime.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      That’s just regular season stuff :)

      • Benzojones

        Oh man… you mean the playoffs have started!?! Playoffs? Who said anything about the Playoffs?

  • Bumsrap

    I guess my surprise at the announcement tells me more about my opinion than if I were to think about.

  • Bumsrap

    If Kershaw pulls this off and doesn’t have an off year next year or worse, he will have become the Koufax of the 21st century.

    • Spence

      Good point. Matt Cain put way too many innings on his arm last year and he stuck this year. Same thing with Chris Carpenter a few years ago.

      • WBBsAs

        Gnatt Cain is gno Kershaw.

        • foul tip

          Gnaturally gnot..

  • Inside Baseball

    Have you used Kershawctober! yet? Could be Kershocktober for tonight… Go Blue!!!

  • ASW1

    Whatever happens – glad McCutchen gets a look here.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I was saying the same thing. Can’t ask for more than this look.

  • Spence

    This seems like a really stupid move for the Dodgers. Wouldnt you want Kershaw to be able to pitch Game 1 of the NLCS? He can only do that if the Dodgers win tonight with Nolasco pitching. Unless Donnie is just going to pitch him on 3 days rest AGAIN. I was just getting ready to post that tonight would be a huge game for the Dodgers since the Cardinals won. Wainright wont be able to pitch Game 1 of NLCS since he’d going Wed. But now, Kershaw probably wont be able to either.

    • bluespop

      Totally agree, Spence. If this is Mattingly’s decision, then he’s following Torre’s propensity to overuse (and possibly ruin) pitchers.
      Even if Kershaw does well, the risk isn’t worth it.

    • DeucesAreWild

      On the other hand, if the Dodgers were to lose today with Nolasco, Kershaw would pitch game 5 in Atlanta and would have been unavailable to pitch until game 3 of the NLCS. This way you can assure that Kersh goes in game 2, potentially in St. Louis, and have a great chance to bring back the series to LA either 1-1 or up 2-0.

      • DeucesAreWild

        There will be thunderstorms in St. Louis on Saturday and Sunday. So even with Kershaw pitching today, we may still see him pitching game 1 in St. Louis on Sunday or Monday…

        • NoahUCLA

          I think game 1 is Friday. Saturday would be normal rest for him.

          • DeucesAreWild

            You’re right. And Friday is supposed to be sunny… never mind…

      • Spence

        Only way I see this making sense is that winning today’s game is the only way to ensure that Kershaw/Greinke pitch Games 1 and 2 in the NLCS. If this series goes to Game 5, then whoever would have started Game 5 wouldnt be able to start the first 2 games in the NLCS anyway.

        So whether Kershaw pitches Game 1 or Game 2 it probably does not matter. Although, its conceivable that Donnie could pitch the Game 1 starter 3 times in the series (1, 4, 7) if we was to go on 3 days rest each time.

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    I have a feeling the NLCS will go through STL, assuming that Wainwright goes against Burnett on wednesday.

  • DeucesAreWild

    I like the move. Kershaw and Greinke to win one of the two games. I think another takeaway from Ryu’s start and the Nolasco uncertainty is that we need a second long reliever in addition to Cappy. This is where I wouldn’t be surprised if we adjust the NLCS roster and add Volquez over Paco. I like Paco and I appreciate his value over the 2013 season, but I see him more of a liability the rest of the way. We would have Kershaw, Greinke, Ryu (with Cappy on stand by) and Nolasco (with Volquez standing by) as our rotation. Not in that order, of course. What about starting Cap over Ricky? That’s also a possibility. Oh the fun of October Dodger baseball!

  • NoahUCLA

    Another possible positive to Kershaw tonight is the greater likelihood that Hanley, Puig and Crawford get 3 days of rest after tonight.

    • DeucesAreWild

      Good point. And not having to travel to Atlanta, and either coming back to LA or heading off to Pittsburgh. Let’s take care of business today!

      • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

        They would either start in LA vs Pitt or go to STL.

        • DeucesAreWild

          Yup. I was thinking St. Louis but wrote Pittsburgh for some reason…

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Lineup:

    Crawford LF
    M. Ellis 2B
    Ramirez SS
    Gonzalez 1B
    Puig RF
    Uribe 3B
    Schumaker CF
    AJ Ellis C
    Kershaw P

    • NoahUCLA

      It’s tough to suggest that a 13 run lineup should be changed, but AJ has earned being in front of Shoe in my book. I think his contributions have been underrated and his improvement on offense is a big reason why we weren’t having as much success on offense in September as we are in October (not that Manny and Puig raking doesn’t help also).

      • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

        Manny?

        • DeucesAreWild

          Hanny?

          • scooplew

            Manley (Dexter of the Redskins)?

          • NoahUCLA

            Didn’t even realize I did that. How funny!!

    • scooplew

      Is this the first time that we have had the same 1 through 8 in the batting order three straight times this season?

  • LADodgersFan88

    I kind if feel the same way about Kershaw. I would have probably preferred to see Nolasco out there so Kershaw would be fully rested, but oh well, let’s go out and close this one out!

  • WBBsAs

    I want to say that, if Koufax could pitch a three-hit shutout in Game 7 of the Series on two days’ rest, this is no big deal. Instead, I will say that it makes me slightly uneasy, but far from panicky.

    • John_from_Aus

      last sentence sums up my feelings also

      • scooplew

        As for me, I am uneasy without the slightly in front of it, but not panicky. I just wish it were game time now instead of nearly three hours away.

        • John_from_Aus

          I think I have warmed (slightly)more to the idea in the last few hours

        • WBBsAs

          I would also have felt slightly uneasy with Nolasco.

  • DeucesAreWild

    In 1962, the Dodgers chose not to use Don Drysdale on three-day’s rest for game 165 vs. the Giants. He would be starting Game 1 of the World Series. The key word here is “would”

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT

  • leekfink

    This is a no-brainer. People here are talking about how it makes Nolasco feel. How Nolasco feels??? Really??? He feels like he’s getting replaced by the best pitcher in baseball. It’s not like he’s being replaced by Edinson Volquez–it’s Clayton Kershaw. It’s not like anyone was concerned about how Dave Anderson felt when Tommy sent Gibson up to replace him–and Gibson could barely walk.

    People are talking about how this affects the rotation in the NLCS and the World Series. Crazy. Kershaw will oh get to pitch in the NLCS if we win the NLDS. Does anyone in America think that Ricky Nolasco on full rest gives you a better chance of winning than Clayton Kershaw on 3-days rest? Can you even name a dozen pitchers in baseball who you would rather have on full rest than Clayton Kershaw on 3-days.

    Is this the World Series? No. But they’re not throwing Kershaw on 2-days rest like Koufax in 1965. But it is the playoffs. Orel Bershiser pitched the entire 1988 postseason on 3 days rest (or less). Belcher started on 3 days rest in the World Series too (and won Game 4).

    This is the the playoffs. You go for the chances that you have, because they don’t come around that often. If the 25-years since the Dodgers won a World Series is not proof of that, then remember that the asks era have bad the best pitcher in baseball on their roster for the last three years, and have not been to the postseason.

    Am I worried about the wear-and-tear on Kershaw’s arm? Of course. But that’s the 236 in Inga during the regular season and the times he throws 120 pitches per start, not the 6-9 innings and 80-110 pitches he will throw tonight. If Kershaw ends up with arm problems, it will be because of what he did in July more than what he does win October.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Last nights game at Dodger stadium was my 1st post season experience / opportunity in my 50 years of watching baseball and what a game it was.That mock copy of the Braves racist chant was the best. Need 1 more win to be able to see to more post season games. Kershaw is the man to get the job done

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Go Blue!!!! Go Dodgers!!!! Whole New Season, Whole New Blue magic number 9…Let’s end this series