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Dodgers taking an unnecessary risk starting Clayton Kershaw in Game 4

Oct 7, 2013, 4:16 PM EDT

Division Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Atlanta Braves - Game One Getty Images

Clayton Kershaw has never started on three days’ rest. Now the Dodgers are asking him to do just that in Monday’s Game 4 against the Braves. Rather than trust Ricky Nolasco to close out the series, they’re going to bank on their ace who is about to win his second Cy Young Award.

In a vacuum, I’m down with that. I like the Dodgers’ chances a little better tonight with Kershaw going. But, then, I liked their chances just fine anyway.

One big complication here: Kershaw threw 126 pitches over seven innings in his Game 1 victory. That’s his second highest total ever as a pro. It wasn’t the most strenuous of 126-pitch outings — the Dodgers won 6-1 — but I’d feel better about things if he had thrown 100-110 pitches instead.

All things considered, this might be the most fatigued start of Kershaw’s life. He’s already thrown 243 innings this year, and now he’s on three days’ rest after an unusually lengthy outing. And with that fatigue has to come an increased risk of injury. Whether that increase is one percent, 10 percent or 100 percent, I won’t claim to know, but it’s there. The safer play would be to let Kershaw pitch on extra rest in a possible Game 5.

By making the switch mere hours before the game, the Dodgers are also showing just how little faith they have in Nolasco. And that’s dangerous with the hope of two potential seven-game series coming up. They’re going to need Nolasco if they intend to win the World Series. Now, if he ever does get the chance to start in the NLDS, it’ll come nearly three weeks after his last start on Sept. 25.

There are also question marks about Hyun-Jin Ryu‘s health that could make Nolasco doubly important.

One plus for the Dodgers here is that moving up Kershaw doesn’t tax the rotation further. That Zack Greinke can start Game 5 on normal rest was likely a factor in the choice. It’s not like they need multiple guys to start on short rest.

Still, I don’t like it. With Atlanta starting Freddy Garcia, I think the Dodgers would have won tonight with Nolasco, leaving them much better set up for the NLCS. They just don’t gain enough in making the switch to justify the risk.

  1. philsphilsphils - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    sweep the legs. Anything can happen in a Game 5 on the road. Show no mercy and go for the KO.

    • xmatt0926x - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:42 PM

      Kershaw may sweep the legs, but after throwing 126 pitches and going on short rest, he’s likely to feel like he got a crane kick to the pitching shoulder after the game. (see what I did there?)

  2. okwhitefalcon - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:28 PM

    The possibility Greinke on the road in an elimination game?

    Yikes.

    I like Kershaw anytime/anywhere on whatever rest but this is a gamble.

  3. Kevin Gillman - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:40 PM

    What I don’t like about it is the decision was made today. Not one day in advance, not two days in advance, but today. Nolasco was prepared to start, and Kershaw was not. It might not matter, but it still might be something to keep an eye on.

    • emdash01 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:44 PM

      From what the reporters were saying, the decision had already been made & Kershaw himself pushed to start, so I imagine he was expecting it. They probably just didn’t say so publicly because they wanted the Braves to focus on preparing for Nolasco instead.

      Not that I approve of the move, but this part of it makes sense.

      • Kevin Gillman - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:48 PM

        The thing is if this works, and Dodgers win, where does this take Ricky from this point forward? I still don’t agree with how it was done. If Kersaw was the choice all along, then make the announcement. But that’s just my opinion. I guess we’ll see how it pans out in a few hours.

  4. poprox13 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:41 PM

    I dont understand this, they would finish the Braves off with Nolasco. No need to rush Kershaw here

  5. poprox13 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:43 PM

    The Red Sox-Devilrays lineup post is coming up “page not found”?

    • aceshigh11 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:48 PM

      It’s there now.

      And they haven’t been the “Devil Rays” for like 6 or 7 years ;)

      • poprox13 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:51 PM

        I like calling them the devilrays cause it gets the 2 devilrays fans panties in a bunch, kinda like Price.

      • aceshigh11 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:05 PM

        Well then I’m okay with that.

        GO SOX.

      • sabatimus - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:11 PM

        I just checked and it’s giving me the page not found error.

      • sabatimus - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:12 PM

        Aaand it’s working again.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:31 PM

      WordPress is having some problems. Hence the lack of a Wacha post. They’re working on it, though.

  6. aceshigh11 - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:47 PM

    Definitely seems to be a panic move on the Dodgers’ part.

    Kershaw is a stud, but what Mattingly is essentially saying is, “I don’t trust ANYONE but Clayton to perform…not my other pitchers, and not my offense…”

    Makes no sense…LA should be playing it cool at this point.

    • Kevin Gillman - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:24 PM

      Mattingly might be managing for his contract.

    • Matthew Pouliot - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:33 PM

      I wouldn’t put this on Mattingly. I’m sure he put in his two cents, but a decision like this had to have been made by the organization as a whole.

  7. wonkypenguin - Oct 7, 2013 at 4:56 PM

    I assume if the Dodgers jump out to a huge lead over Garcia (say 5-6 runs) then Kershaw will be on a short pitch limit and Nolasco + bullpen will get plenty of work. But as a HUGE Kershaw fan, I am not in favor of this plan at all.

    • bfar4526 - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:40 PM

      No offense, but you would come off stupid saying your not a Kershaw fan.

  8. jcmeyer10 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:06 PM

    Did Craig put you up to this Puliot?

  9. dannymac17 - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:30 PM

    I am okay with this. Go the knockout. Go Doyers.

  10. moogro - Oct 7, 2013 at 5:38 PM

    Nobody wants to consider an injury issue with Reecky? Everything else is speculation, why not?

  11. wheels579 - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:12 PM

    I tend to agree with the thought that this was an “organizational decision” based on Rick Honeycutt’s earlier comments. But what does this mean for Mattingly’s future? Management goes over his head on pitching decisions now, so if it backfires and they lose, does Mattingly still get fired?

  12. sincitybonobo - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    Dodgers are weakening their strongest asset because they are worried about the back of their rotation versus Freddy Garcia. Even if Nolasco and Garcia are both (likely) gone by the 6th, I think LA’s bullpen is overall superior to Atlanta’s. And, no, even a Dodger victory will not validate this misguided strategy.

    • jimeejohnson - Oct 7, 2013 at 8:52 PM

      Oh yes it will.

  13. jdgto - Oct 7, 2013 at 6:39 PM

    Pirates and Cardinals are going 5 games now. Therefore, if the Dogs can put away the Braves now, they will get two days rest before the other series is even finished. Then factor in a Travel day and Kershaw will have three days rest again before the next series even starts. Can then just start that series with Grenke and go Kershaw again. I think its a smart move. If only to not have to go back to Atlanta and listen to that annoying chant all game. Besides, Nolasco is horrible!

  14. cowartsh - Oct 7, 2013 at 7:58 PM

    @sincity the dodgers bullpen is not as good as the braves. The braves bullpen had the best era. The dodgers bullpen era was over a run higher

    • sincitybonobo - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      True. More accurately, Wilson, Jansen, Withrow and Rodriguez stack up well versus the Braves top relievers. Wilson can provide two solid, pressure innings of necessary. He’s fresh and has been filthy down the stretch.

  15. chadbrown121 - Oct 7, 2013 at 9:39 PM

    This a move to finish the Braves, we taking advantage of them starting Freddy Garcia. Might as well put the foot on the neck of Braves and…..

    Finsh em’ Rock

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