Don Mattingly felt confident having Clayton Kershaw on the mound to protect the Los Angeles Dodgers’ five-run lead in the opener of the NL Division Series.
Even after the likely Cy Young Award winner and possible MVP failed in another tough outing against the St. Louis Cardinals, Mattingly feels just as confident sending his ace to the hill with the Dodgers’ season on the line in Game 4 on Tuesday.
After all, Kershaw is 2-0 with a 0.47 ERA in three career starts, including the postseason, on three days’ rest.
"He’s back to business, it’s Clayton Kershaw," Mattingly said. "You don’t win four ERA titles and end up going to win three out of the last four Cy Youngs – could have won all four of them – just by anything goes bad, you just curl up and go away. These guys go to work, they come back. They keep working and they keep going."
The left-hander had a 6-1 lead in the sixth inning of Game 1 on Friday, but the Cardinals scored eight times in the seventh and tagged Kershaw for eight runs in 6 2-3 innings in a 10-9 win.
Kershaw has allowed 15 runs over 10 2-3 innings in his last two postseason starts against St. Louis, which beat Kershaw 9-0 in Game 6 of last year’s NLCS to advance to the World Series.
He’ll need a much better effort this time around with the Dodgers facing elimination after falling 3-1 in Monday’s Game 3. Kershaw is 0-4 with a 6.28 ERA in his last five starts at Busch Stadium, including two losses in the LCS last season.
"There’s always something to prove. This game is very humbling," said Kershaw, 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA in the regular season. "I try not to look at all the numbers and all the stats, just try to go out and try to win a game for us (Tuesday). You try to stay on as even keel as you possibly can and just prepare for the next one."
Los Angeles tied the score in Game 3 on a double by Hanley Ramirez in the sixth, but Kolten Wong’s two-run homer in the seventh put the Cardinals on the brink of advancing to a fourth straight NLCS.
Matt Carpenter also homered and added a double, making him the first player in postseason history to have one of each in three straight games. St. Louis finished last in the NL with 105 homers in the regular season, but it has hit six in this series.
All three of Carpenter’s home runs have come off left-handers – including his sixth-inning shot against Kershaw in Game 1 – after he took two lefties deep in the regular season.
Los Angeles won’t have one of its sluggers in the lineup Tuesday, as slumping Yasiel Puig will sit. The outfielder struck out seven consecutive times before tripling and scoring the tying run Monday. He’s 3 for 12 with eight strikeouts in the series.
Andre Ethier was listed to play center field and bat sixth in place of Puig.
St. Louis now turns to Shelby Miller to help it put away the Dodgers. Miller will be making his first career postseason start after going 10-9 with a 3.74 ERA in 31 starts and one relief appearance in the regular season.
The right-hander last pitched Sept. 23, when he allowed three runs on a pair of homers in 4 1-3 innings of St. Louis’ 4-3, 10-inning loss to the Chicago Cubs. Miller’s only start against the Dodgers this season didn’t go well either, as he allowed six runs in five innings of a 6-0 loss June 29.
"I know I’ll be nervous, excited," Miller said. "I feel like it’s an awesome opportunity to get to pitch in games like this. My whole life I’ve been excited and been waiting for this kind of opportunity.
"I think the biggest thing is just take it all in and just fight for my teammates."
Adrian Gonzalez is 4 for 7 with a homer off Miller.