The Los Angeles Dodgers appeared ready to cruise to their first World Series Championship since 1988 after a dominant NLCS. Their odds got even better after Game 1 of the World Series.
Clayton Kershaw dismantled the Houston Astros over seven, mostly air-tight, innings. He allowed only a single run on possibly his only mistake of the game, serving up an inside fastball to Alex Bregman that was promptly deposited into the cheap seats.
But a lot can change in three days. The Dodgers lost a heart-breaking, extra-innings homerpalooza on Wednesday and couldn’t rebound Friday when Yu Darvish had the shortest outing of his career. Lefty Alex Wood is on the mound Saturday for the Dodgers, but he shouldn’t be. This is the exact situation when the best pitcher on the planet needs to get the ball, and here’s why:
The bullpen needs relief
In Friday’s 5-3 loss, Darvish lasted only 1 2/3 innings before giving way to the bullpen, burning through five relievers to close out the game. Compare that to the eight bullpen arms called upon in Game 2’s marathon, and what was once a team’s calling card becomes a potential weak spot.
Kershaw was lifted after seven innings of expert precision in Game 1. He threw only 83 pitches, and probably could’ve gone longer. Manager Dave Roberts took him out because there’s more baseball to be played. Kershaw has made 290 regular-season starts and he’s finished at least seven innings in 167 of them. If there’s anyone with a history of making a call to the pen optional, it’s him.
He’s Clayton freaking Kershaw
No disrespect to Wood, who was mostly incredible for the Dodgers in the regular season, but there’s no pitcher better than Kershaw. When it comes to longevity, Kershaw holds the edge. Wood could customarily finish six innings per start this season, but rarely went further.
Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner and former MVP. Since 2011, he’s never finished outside the top five in Cy Young voting.
The Dodgers can’t afford to fall into a 3-1 deficit. Sure, the Chicago Cubs managed to climb out of that pit in 2016, but counting on that happening again is foolhardy. The Cubs are one of only six teams to overcome a 3-1 series disadvantage to win a World Series. When you absolutely need a win, accept no substitutes for the very best.
Kershaw can start possible Game 7 at Dodger Stadium
Kershaw has never made a regular-season start on three-days’ rest, but he’s done it four times in the postseason. When the moment calls for it, he’s ready.
For lovers of pure narrative, Kershaw starting Game 4 instead of Game 5 lines him up for a Game 7 start – again on short rest – with the season on the line in front of the home crowd. Nothing would be better.
Winning the World Series is obviously at the forefront of Roberts’ and the Dodgers’ minds, and making sure the best pitcher on the roster isn’t overtaxed is also paramount. But if Kershaw doesn’t start on three-days’ rest, which Roberts has confirmed he won’t, the Dodgers are shooting themselves in the foot.
(Photos courtesy: Action Images)