Dodgers manager Don Mattingly is putting all his chips on the table for critical Game 4 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals, starting Clayton Kershaw on three days rest. Mattingly said simply, “He’s our best guy.”
Kershaw attempts to redeem himself after Game 1, in which he was dominant until the seventh inning, when the Cardinals thundered back from a four-run deficit by scoring seven earned runs off of the Dodgers ace. Kershaw was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA during the regular season, a lock for the Cy Young Award and possibly the NL MVP. But he threw 110 pitches in Game 1.
It’s Clayton Kershaw. I hate to say it like that, but these kinds of guys don’t curl up and go away. You don’t get where you are, win four ERA titles and end up going three out of four in Cy Youngs just by anything goes bad, you curl up and go away. These guys go to work. They come back. They keep working and they keep going. This is a different cat.
Kershaw pitched well on three days rest in the clinching Game 4 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, only giving up two unearned runs on three hits as the Dodgers won 4-3.
The Dodgers waited to make the decision about Kershaw pitching Game 4 until they observed how he threw off flat ground on Sunday.
Kershaw, who did not watch the video of his seventh-inning meltdown in Game 1 and reduced his off-day throwing, said quietly:
There’s always something to prove. This game is very humbling. People don’t care what you’ve done in the past. It’s “What have you done for me lately?” People turn on you really fast, and I know that. For me, it’s just the start-to-start thing. I try not to look at all the numbers and all the stats, just try to go out and try to win a game for us tomorrow.
Although Kershaw made two stellar regular-season starts against the Cardinals this season, going 1-0 with a 1.93 ERA, the Cardinals lit him up in Game 6 of the NLCS last year, driving him out of the box in the fifth inning. He was 0-4 against the Cardinals in 2013.
Pitching on three days rest has a wide range of results for players in the playoffs. For a more complete list of performance in the post-season on three days rest, see here. Baseball Reference states that pitchers working on three days’ rest in the postseason have a collective 4.14 ERA, as opposed to a 3.64 ERA when they have four days rest.
The best performances include Mike Mussina’s 1-hit gem in 1997 for Baltimore against Cleveland in the ALCS and Orel Hershiser’s 3-hit beauty in the 1988 World Series for the Dodgers against the A’s. The worst include Todd Stottlemyre’s 1-inning outing giving up 7 earned runs for the Cardinals against the Braves in the 1996 NLCS and Tom Glavine’s 1-inning appearance giving up 7 earned runs for the Braves against the Pirates in the 1992 NLCS.