The Los Angeles Dodgers had a chance to close out the Milwaukee Brewers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series on Friday night but were unsuccessful. They lost, 7-2, setting up a decisive Game 7 at Miller Park on Saturday night.
In their biggest game of the season to date, the Dodgers will hand the ball to rookie Walker Buehler. The Dodgers’ bullpen is relatively well-rested, so it would appear to be all hands on deck in an elimination game.
That will include ace Clayton Kershaw, who started Game 5 of the series on Wednesday and will only be on two days of rest. After Game 6, he told Andy McCullough of the L.A. Times that he will be available and ready to go in any capacity:
Clayton Kershaw will be available for Game 7. He has not thrown his bullpen, and mentioned how he threw four innings in Game 7 of the World Series. "I'm prepared for whatever," he said.
— Andy McCullough (@McCulloughTimes) October 20, 2018
Ideally, the Dodgers would prefer to get length out of Buehler and use their conventional relievers like Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen to close out a victory and save Kershaw for Game 1 of the World Series.
Kershaw got roughed up in Game 1 of the NLCS at Miller Park but then bounced back in Game 5 at home with seven innings of one-run ball while striking out nine.
He has pitched out a relief in the postseason in the past and had some success. Most notably in Game 5 of the 2016 NL Division Series when he got the final two outs to eliminate the Washington Nationals and help the Dodgers advance to the NLCS.
Kershaw then tossed four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7 of last year’s World Series.
If Kershaw is only needed for an inning or so and the Dodgers win, then it could be treated as his bullpen work and he potentially would remain available to start against the Boston Red Sox in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Dodgers’ main focus will be winning on Saturday night, and if that takes more than an inning out of Kershaw, then they presumably will not hesitate to do so.
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