Prior to the Los Angeles Dodgers completing their final homestand of the 2019 regular season with a comeback win against the Colorado Rockies, manager Dave Roberts announced Clayton Kershaw will start Thursday at Petco Park.
Rich Hill remains scheduled to take the ball in the series opener against the San Diego Padres, leaving an open spot Wednesday — which likely will be another bullpen game for L.A. Roberts has not committed to pitching probables for the weekend, though Walker Buehler and Hyun-Jin Ryu are aligned to start Friday and Saturday, respectively.
That would leave Kershaw, Buehler and Ryu in line to start Games 1, 2 and 3 of the National League Division Series. However, Roberts cautioned against presuming that will be the order of the Dodgers’ rotation in the playoffs.
“If you look at our three guys, they’re very interchangeable,” he said. “We can still kind of pivot as far as aligning them. I don’t think we can make a bad decision. The way that they feel right now, I think we’re in a great spot.”
Each of the three starters has fared much better at Dodger Stadium than on the road this season, though Kershaw’s splits and track record are the least drastic. Last year the Dodgers made a jarring decision to start Ryu against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of the NLDS.
It wasn’t a surprise when evaluating the season Ryu had, but rather given Kershaw’s standing as the franchise’s longtime ace. It marked the first time since 2009 that Kershaw did not start the Dodgers’ first game of the postseason, and the playoff game was Ryu’s first since 2014.
Changing the long presumed order of the rotation allowed Ryu and Kershaw both to start on five days’ rest. That could again be a factor for this year’s NLDS.
If Kershaw indeed takes the ball in Game 1 — scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 3 — he would be on six days’ rest after facing the Padres. Should Buehler indeed start Friday, he could pitch in Game 1 on five days’ rest.
But if Ryu’s regular-season finale is Saturday, starting the playoff opener would come on regular rest.
Thus, the Dodgers could very well elect for a return to Kershaw as their starter for Game 1, followed by Ryu the next night. Although it would bump Buehler to a road outing, he certainly has proven capable of succeeding in a hostile environment.
He was shaky against the Braves at SunTrust Park, but improved in Game 7 of the NL Championship Series to help the Dodgers eliminate the Milwaukee Brewers.