By Jon Weisman
Clayton Kershaw has thrown 218 pitches since the playoffs began October 7, 117 of them in the five days preceding his start today in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series.
That’s a hearty if not quite outrageous amount, buoyed by the fact that Kershaw hasn’t had any physical complications since his return from a herniated disk in September.
“Fortunately for us, the back hasn’t been an issue since he’s come back,” Dave Roberts said, adding that the Dodgers are mainly monitoring his overall usage.
Kershaw has never let on that his arm has been fatigued in any previous postseason, but Roberts suggested that the lefty’s midsummer absence might have given him a little something extra this October.
“I think that the velocity’s played up,” Roberts said, “and he’s holding velocity. His pitch mix is right on point. … There’s a lot of bullets left in that arm this season.”
Roberts said he and Rick Honeycutt will watch Kershaw’s body language and command “intently,” monitoring his stressful innings, to know how far to let him go tonight.
“This is not a deciding game, but with Clayton, it’s hard to bet against him in any capacity because he’s so mentally tough and determined,” Roberts said. “To speak for Clayton, knowing that he missed 2 1/2 months, there’s a big part of him that wants to be there for the guys like they were for him while he was gone.”
Looking ahead for a moment, Roberts noted that while Julio Urías was throwing a bullpen session today that lined him up to start Game 4, the Dodgers weren’t ready to make that official, hinting that they were preserving the 20-year-old for potential use Tuesday in Game 3.
Game 3 starter Rich Hill, Roberts said, is still on a general blister watch.
“We just can’t figure out when it’s gonna go or how it’s gonna respond inning to inning, pitch to pitch,” Roberts said of Hill’s pressing digitation. “So for me, come Game 3, it’s kind of one of those things I keep in constant communication with Neil (Rampe), our head trainer, and see how it’s doing.”
But until then, the focus is on tonight’s Game 2, and trying to come home with home-field advantage after Saturday’s late loss in Game 1.
“It was a hard-fought baseball game,” Roberts said. “Whether we lose by one or by four, it’s still a loss. But I still believe the way we played and the way we competed, I’ll take our chances tonight.”