Dodgers should start Clayton Kershaw on Monday if facing elimination

Dodgers should start Clayton Kershaw on Monday if facing elimination
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw led the majors for the third consecutive season in earned-run average. His ERA by season: 2.28 in 2011, 2.53 in 2012 and 1.83 this season. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Decisions aren't made easily in the playoffs, which you could ask Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly about after his seventh-inning choice in Game 2 of the National League division series against the Atlanta Braves.

Yet, that could prove a mere postseason hiccup should the Dodgers lose Game 3 on Sunday.


Then what do they do? They'd be facing an elimination game Monday. Would they really start Ricky Nolasco or ask Clayton Kershaw to start on three days' rest?

And I submit, this is no question at all. You start Kershaw.

Your season on the line, you go with your best. You pull out all stops, making certain if you're beat, you did absolutely everything within your power to win.

Which means Kershaw. That's no slight to Nolasco, who is scheduled to start Game 4. Kershaw is the best pitcher in the NL. He comes before every arm.

Mattingly said moving Kershaw up isn't on the team schedule.

"We haven't thought about that," Mattingly said. "Well, shouldn't say we haven't thought about it because you're always going to have to think about everything. But right now we're scheduled with Ricky, and that's the way we're going to go."

If Mattingly hasn't thought about it, he isn't doing his job. You have to think about all possibilities.

You could make the case that Kershaw should start Game 4 regardless of Sunday's outcome.

If the Dodgers are up two games to one, I'd rather try to close it out with Nolasco. If he wins, then you can start Kershaw in the opener of the NL Championship Series. If he loses, then you have Kershaw to start in a decisive Game 5.

"You're going to go through every scenario," Mattingly said. "But really, we're looking at Ricky as Game 4."

Kershaw hasn't pitched with only three days of rest this season and threw 124 pitches Thursday. Lose Sunday and you start him in Game 4 anyway. Sandy Koufax shut out the Minnesota Twins in Game 7 of the 1965 World Series, throwing a three-hitter on two days' rest.

The stakes are larger now. And if the Dodgers lose Game 3, you start Kershaw on Monday, win it, and then worry about winning Game 5 in Atlanta on Wednesday.