By Jon Weisman
Kenta Maeda will start Game 1 of the National League Championship Series on Saturday, Dave Roberts confirmed, with Clayton Kershaw looking likely to make Sunday’s Game 2 start.
Kershaw was in good shape after Thursday’s late-night bullpen session that climaxed with the final seven pitches of the Dodgers’ National League Division Series clincher over Washington.
“Clayton came through well,” Roberts said this afternoon, after the team arrived at Wrigley Field for their pre-NLCS workout. “I think that he (and) his teammates were really excited that he got the last two outs of that game. Physically, he feels great. He’s going to go out there and get a lift in and throw and run and do what he does. So, obviously, we’re not prepared to make that decision yet, but he’s tracking to start when we all think.”
Of note, however: For the Dodgers’ second series in a row, there is potential for Game 2 rain. (Click below to enlarge.)
Kenley Jansen, who threw a career-high 2 1/3 innings and 51 pitches, could potentially pitch in a much shorter stint Game 1, Roberts said.
“I talked to Kenley today,” Roberts said, “and it wasn’t the arm, it was more the legs that were really fatigued. He uses his lower half very well. So I think that, for me, just right now, I expect him available. But we’ll see more after he goes out there and throws today. And I talk to the players every day and I’ll know more tomorrow, but … in a one-plus situation? Probably not. But don’t hold me to it.”
Maeda, the Game 1 starter, has lasted a total of 9 2/3 innings in his past three starts, allowing 12 runs. Roberts doesn’t think that his righty has become overwhelmed.
“Kenta hasn’t pitched, obviously, in this stage in this country, but he’s pitched in a lot of big ballgames,” Roberts said. “He’s not scared, and I think that it’s just about execution. … I don’t think it’s a nerves issue.
“He’ll be prepared, and I expect him to throw better than he has the last three times he’s taken the ball. We have a game plan for every team, and he’s going to go over that today, tomorrow, with Rick (Honeycutt) and the catcher and he’ll be ready.”
The catcher, Roberts added, could be Carlos Ruiz, with Cubs lefty Jon Lester on the mound.
“I do like the at-bats that Chooch can give us against left-handed pitching,” Roberts said. “So I’m weighing through some things, but I can’t say enough about Chooch and what he’s done, not only in the two postseason at-bats, but what he’s done for Yasmani (Grandal), for Austin Barnes, for just everyone, the impact he’s made in such a short time. And he’s a guy that’s performed on this big stage. So, that’s certainly noted.”
The Dodgers confirmed they would add one pitcher to their roster for the NLCS, meaning that a position player will lose his spot when rosters are made official Saturday.