First things first: I was at last night’s game, and it couldn’t have been better. I mean, being at Dodger Stadium is almost always fun, but during the first home playoff game in four years, with a sold-out crowd, a couple of homers, and all of the offense? Just wonderful. The only downside? Cell service is even worse than I’d heard, just about unusable. Well, that and the two guys behind me insisting that “small ball is the best” and that Don Mattingly should have called for a bunt every single time everyone got on base. Clearly, they didn’t see my shirt.
Anyway, thanks to Eephus for holding the fort down here and for those of you I met in person, and I’ll be back there tonight to hopefully see a clinching celebration. But who will be on the mound? Ricky Nolasco is scheduled to start, and Rick Honeycutt said last night that he would, but I — and others, clearly — have been hearing that Clayton Kershaw was (and maybe still is?) very much in the mix for the start.
Which, it should go without saying, I was strongly against as soon as the Dodgers won Game 3. If you’re down 2-1 and headed into an elimination game, then, sure, you want your best on the mound. And I get the argument that says to finish it up here in Los Angeles rather than risk going back to Atlanta for a Game 5.
But there’s obviously a lot of repercussions beyond that. Kershaw has never pitched on three days rest, and while that’s not to say he couldn’t do it, this doesn’t seem like the opportune time to test it out. That would also mean that if you win, Kershaw wouldn’t be available for Friday’s Game 1 of the NLCS unless you had him start on three days rest a second time.
Besides, you’re going to need Nolasco at some point, and he hasn’t started since Sept. 25. (He did throw an inning of relief after that.) In an NLCS where you’re likely to need four starters, Game 4 would come on October 15, meaning he’d be on 19 days rest if he doesn’t go tonight. If and when that goes poorly, it’d be hard to blame him.
The other concern is if you use Kershaw tonight and lose, and while he’s the best pitcher in the game, I think we all saw this season how many times he can pitch wonderfully and not end up with a win because of it. That means you have Zack Greinke in Game 5, and if he gets the job done, Game 1 of the NLCS is either Kershaw on short rest again… or Nolasco… or Hyun-jin Ryu, who was awful last night.
I get that it’s dangerous to plan too heavily on the NLCS when you still have to finish off a dangerous Braves team, so you can’t look ahead too much. But you basically have a situation where you need to win one of the next two games (and tonight’s opponent being Freddy Garcia). Kershaw will start one of those two games. Let’s make sure it’s the one where he’s on full rest and not affecting his availability for the next series.
I believe that the right choice will be made. But am I 100% sure? No, not yet.