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.