Taking the mound on short rest isn’t anything new for Clayton Kershaw. A postseason win, however, would be a welcome change – and a necessity with his team facing elimination.
With the Los Angeles Dodgers staring at another early playoff exit, Kershaw will try to end his five-start playoff losing streak Tuesday night against the New York Mets in Game 4 of this NL division series.
Kershaw has made two starts in the playoffs on three days’ rest, compiling a 2.25 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings. He lost his only decision in those contests, falling 3-2 at St. Louis in Game 4 as Los Angeles was eliminated from last year’s NLDS.
The left-hander takes the mound in the same predicament, this time in Queens.
"The adrenaline takes over. You don’t really feel tired or anything like that," Kershaw said. "You know, it’s the playoffs. So it doesn’t really – obviously your routines change a little bit, different things like that, but as far as being prepared, being ready for it, I’ll be fine."
Kershaw has been anything but fine in the postseason, going 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA in nine starts. He’s lost five straight with a 6.44 ERA and 12.27 strikeouts per nine innings.
”I feel good with him. His stuff’s always good,” manager Don Mattingly said. ”I’m always pretty confident when he’s pitching.”
The three-time Cy Young Award winner and reigning NL MVP gave up three runs with 11 strikeouts and four walks in 6 2-3 innings of a 3-1 loss to the Mets in Game 1.
A change of venue could benefit Kershaw, who is 3-0 while yielding three runs with 31 strikeouts over 26 2-3 innings in four starts at Citi Field. He pitched a three-hitter there with 11 strikeouts in a 3-0 victory July 23.
He’ll need to be on top of his game again after New York set a franchise record for runs while collecting 13 hits in Monday’s 13-7 win to take a 2-1 series lead.
While Los Angeles gives the ball to its veteran ace, the Mets are turning to rookie Steven Matz (4-0, 2.27). The 24-year-old left-hander, though, hasn’t pitched in the majors since Sept. 24 due to back spasms brought on from sleeping on a couch.
He threw 80 pitches in a simulated game last week in Florida.
"It felt really good," Matz told the team’s official website. "I took two weeks off, so a little rusty in the first couple innings, but felt really good, finished strong, arm feels great, back feels great, so I’m ready to go."
He pitched two-hit ball over six innings and struck out eight in an 8-0 win at Dodger Stadium on July 5.
While a playoff atmosphere at Citi Field will be much different, Matz got a small taste of that intensity in a 5-1 home win over the New York Yankees on Sept. 18. He allowed one run in six innings.
"I think that did help me a lot because now this won’t be the first time I’ll be pitching in front of a crowd like that," Matz said. "So now it’s kind of like I’ve been there and I feel like I’m ready to do it."
It’s uncertain if he’ll face Chase Utley, who was booed during the Game 3 introductions after his takeout slide Saturday broke the right leg of shortstop Ruben Tejada. Utley didn’t play.
A hearing in his appeal of the ban is scheduled for Monday.
”The greatest retaliation is winning,” Mets outfielder Michael Cuddyer said.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly kept him on the bench in Game 3 in favor of Howie Kendrick at second base, and Mattingly could opt for the same scenario since Utley hit .186 against left-handers this season, while Kendrick batted .291.
Kendrick is 5 for 13 in this series after hitting a three-run homer Monday, but he went 0 for 3 with a strikeout against Matz in July.
Curtis Granderson, Yoenis Cespedes and Travis d’Arnaud combined for eight hits and 11 RBIs for the Mets in Game 3. The trio, however, is 3 for 22 against Kershaw.
Granderson, though, has been outstanding in this series with three straight two-hit games. He doubled twice and tied New York’s playoff record by driving in five runs, matching the mark held by Rusty Staub (1973), Edgardo Alfonzo (1999) and Carlos Delgado (2006).