LOS ANGELES – No one lobbied harder than Clayton Kershaw about starting tonight’s possible series clincher in the National League Division Series, but the final decision was made by committee, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said.
The decision to scratch Ricky Nolasco was announced Monday afternoon, but Mattingly said it was discussed before the regular season ended.
Kershaw won the series opener on Thursday and threw 124 pitches. He has never pitched a game on three days’ rest.
“After Game 1, he was barking right after the game that he was ready for Game 4,” Mattingly said. “We’re like, ‘No, no, no. Let’s see where you’re at tomorrow. Let’s see how you’re doing.’
“Then that process was just a matter of waiting things out to see if he responded to everything and how he was feeling and making sure one last time that he was 100 percent with it, because if he wasn’t 100 percent with it, we wouldn’t do this.”
The Dodgers could have held Kershaw back and saved him in case a Game 5 was needed in Atlanta. But Mattingly said the team’s feeling was to close it out by starting their best pitcher.
If they do, they would be able to start Zack Greinke and Kershaw in Games 1 and 2 of the National League Championship series starting Friday. If they don’t, they still have Greinke for a possible fifth game Wednesday in Atlanta.
Mattingly said there was no real concern that Kershaw is unfamiliar with pitching on short rest.
“This is pretty normal for the playoffs,” Mattingly said. “I think you see it all the time. I know I faced a guy in ’95 that pretty much did this in Randy Johnson.
“If we were asking him to play first base today, that would be a little out of his comfort zone. I think on the mound he’s pretty comfortable.”
Pitching on short rest can be risky, however. Since 2007, pitchers working on three days’ rest in the playoffs had a 6.34 ERA in 17 starts.
But Kershaw pressed the issue, Mattingly said. After discussions with general manager Ned Colletti and others in the organization, the Dodgers decided to give their left-hander the ball. Kershaw led the majors with a 1.83 ERA this season and allowed just one run in seven innings in a 6-1 series opening win against the Braves.
“We talked to him last night and we basically say, ‘Clay, you’ve got to be 100 percent sure. We’re not going to take any chances with your career. That’s the last thing we’d do.’ And he says, ‘All the work I do, everything I go through every start, it’s for this kind of game.’ “
Nolasco struggled in his final three starts, giving up 24 hits and 17 earned runs in 12 innings. He pitched one inning of relief Sept. 29 but hadn’t started a game since Sept. 25.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with Ricky,” Mattingly said. “It’s really more to do with Clayton and Zack. When we told Ricky last night, he goes, ‘I understand. You’ve got the best guy in the game out there tonight.’
“We go into these games and you’re really looking to win. I mean, you want your best chance to win, and we really feel like this gives us the best chance.”