After clinching the National League West in each of the past five seasons, the Los Angeles Dodgers began their postseason march with Clayton Kershaw starting Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
Upon the Dodgers claiming a sixth consecutive NL West title, manager Dave Roberts allowed the likely scenario was Kershaw would start against the Atlanta Braves in Game 1, followed by Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 2.
However, the Dodgers ultimately set their starting rotation in the opposite order. It naturally led for plenty of debate over the strategy. Kershaw’s body language suggested he was not thrilled by it, but accepting of the Dodgers’ decision.
He then went out and tossed eight scoreless innings to help the Dodgers take a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLDS. “Yeah, maybe. Maybe a tick, for sure,” Kershaw answered when asked if the Game 2 victory came with extra satisfaction in light of the developments.
“But Ryu threw so unbelievable [Thursday] night that you just want to match him. That’s all I was trying to do is try and put our team in a good spot, and you want to defend homefield when you have homefield obviously.
“So Game 1, Game 2, game whatever, I’m getting to pitch in the playoffs and I’m excited about that.”
Kershaw notoriously operates on a five-day routine that’s predicated on pitching on regular rest. That was disrupted this season, both by the Dodgers providing their ace with an additional day between outings, and MLB implementing more off days during the season.
Kershaw wasn’t certain one way or the other if starting in Game 2 on five days’ rest would ultimately make an impact. Nevertheless, his eight innings pitched marked the longest outing of 20 career postseason starts.
Kershaw capitalized on the Braves’ aggressiveness, and only threw 85 pitches. He went back out to the mound to warm up for the ninth inning but was relieved by Kenley Jansen when Lucas Duda did not bat.
The Dodgers have now won 10 of Kershaw’s past 12 postseason starts. He presumably would take the ball in Game 5, should Atlanta push the NLDS to its limit.
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