By Jon Weisman
Any Dodger game that starts with Clayton Kershaw on the mound ideally ends with Clayton Kershaw on the mound.
But with seven relievers who have performed strongly down the stretch, the Dodgers can be as aggressive with their playoff bullpen as they have been in years.
Of the six relievers the Dodgers would use to preserve a lead, none had a September ERA higher than 2.00, and only Joe Blanton had a September WHIP above 1.03.
Kenley Jansen, of course, is the primary candidate for the ninth inning, and if necessary could be drawn into the eighth inning. This year, Jansen entered six games in the eighth and saved five of them.
In the set-up roles, the Dodgers can mix and match righties Joe Blanton, Pedro Báez and Josh Fields with lefties Grant Dayton and Luis Avilán, with Ross Stripling held back for extra innings.
That means even if Kershaw only goes six innings, the Dodgers could go batter-to-batter against a Washington starting lineup that goes R-L-R-L-R at the top.
At the same time, also note that Avilán, Baez and Dayton have excelled this year even when at a platoon disadvantage:
If, despite his strong showing in last year’s playoffs, Kershaw still has some postseason doubters to silence, the Dodger bullpen does as well. This year, the relievers are well positioned to do so. (J.P. Hoornstra of the Daily News has a good feature explaining how this came to be.)