The Los Angeles Dodgers announced Clayton Kershaw will start Game 2 of the National League Division Series while Hyun-Jin Ryu will follow in Game 3 against the Washington Nationals.
Compared to years past, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts kept quiet about the rotation order ahead of the NLDS beginning. Walker Buehler eventually got the nod for Game 1 and Rich Hill was named the starter for Game 4, but there was a lot of speculation about which order Kershaw and Ryu would pitch in.
Ryu was 10-1 with a 1.93 ERA in 14 home starts this season compared to 4-4 with a 2.72 ERA in 15 starts on the road, so it would have made sense to let him pitch Game 2 at the friendly confines of Dodger Stadium.
But he tossed 6.2 innings of one-run ball at Nationals Park in July, and Roberts and the front office had previously made it clear they felt comfortable enough to start him on the road.
Kershaw starting Game 2 means he will be on full rest if the series were to get to a decisive Game 5. Buehler would be expected to start that game, but Kershaw’s experience relieving in October could allow him to be a weapon out of the bullpen for Roberts.
Ryu, on the other hand, has previously been uncomfortable pitching out of the bullpen due to his injury history.
At the Dodgers’ team workout on Wednesday night, Roberts said the winner of the NL Wild Card Game did not factor in his rotation order decision, but he did discuss the strategy that did go into it.
“The conversation that we had with all three guys, there was a little bit of home, road, opponent, but we had already made that decision regardless of the outcome,” Roberts said. “All three of those guys are on board with the decision that we made.”
He also added initial reluctance to publicly name a Game 2 starter was not a result of the Dodgers awaiting to see how the NLDS opener would unfold.
The Nationals have not announced it yet, but all signs point to Stephen Strasburg opposing Kershaw in Game 2. He pitched out of the bullpen in the Wild Card Game so will be on short rest, although he only threw 34 pitches across three scoreless innings.
Max Scherzer started and pitched the first five innings of that game, giving up two home runs and three runs overall. He will be on regular rest and is expected to start opposite Ryu back at Nationals Park in Game 3, setting up a matchup of two of the NL’s top Cy Young candidates.