Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado is congratulated by teammates and coaches after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pitcher Clayton Kershaw celebrates in the locker room after the Dodgers eliminated the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers second baseman Kiki Hernandez, left, and Chase Utley celebrate in the locker room.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Yasiel Puig celebrates after the Dodgers eliminated the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS at SunTrust Park.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodger players and coaches take a team photo after eliminating the Braves in Game 4 of the NLDS.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers reliever Kenley Jansen is hugged by Matt Kemp after the Dodgers defeated the Braves to capture the NLDS series.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Catcher Yasmani Grandal celebrates after the Dodgers defeated the Braves to move on to the league championship against Milwaukee.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado celebrates after hitting a three-run home run against the Braves in the seventh inning of Game 4.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Braves shortstop Charlie Culberson celebrates after tagging out Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson when Pederson tried to stretch a sinlge into a double in the eighth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers shortstop Manny Machado flexes after hitting a three-run home run in the seventh inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Pinch hitter David Freese points to the bench after hitting a two-run single to give the Dodgers the lead against the Braves in the sixth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pinch hitter David Freese hits a two-run single against the Braves in the sixth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Braves right fielder Nick Markakis, left, and second baseman Ozzie Albies can’t reach a bloop single hit by Yasiel Puig in the sixth inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers Justin Turner fields a sacrifice bunt by Braves hitter Ender Inciarte as pitcher Rich Hill tries to help in the 4th inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers center fielder Cody Bellinger can’t make the catch on a single by Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Dodgers pitcher Rich Hill throws a pitch against the Braves in the first inning.(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)
Before the Dodgers defeated Atlanta, 6-2, in Game 4 to finish them off in the National League Division Series on Monday, manager Dave Roberts was asked who would start Game 5 if the Braves forced one. Roberts said Clayton Kershaw.
But the Dodgers don’t need a Game 5. Instead, Kershaw will start Game 1 of the NL Championship Series at Milwaukee on Friday.
Kershaw was informed of Roberts’ announcement during the Dodgers’ celebration.
“I don’t know,” Kershaw said. “I want to pitch.”
The choice to start the generation’s greatest pitcher was not as clear as in previous years. The Dodgers opted to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1. Kershaw was assigned Game 2. Roberts justified the move by explaining having both pitchers go on an extra day of rest, as opposed to Kershaw on regular rest and Ryu on two extra days, put the club in a better position. But the decision was symbolic — it was the first time the Dodgers didn’t have Kershaw start the first game of the playoffs since 2009 — and Kershaw was displeased.
It worked out anyway. Ryu tossed seven scoreless innings before Kershaw outdid him with eight shutout frames. With Kershaw starting in Game 1 against the Brewers, Walker Buehler could start Game 2, saving Ryu for Game 3, when the series shifts to Dodger Stadium, where Ryu has been dominant this season.
ROBERTS PAYS TRIBUTE TO BRAVES
The Braves were not expected to reach the postseason. They spent little during the offseason as former Dodgers executive Alex Anthopoulos took over their baseball operations. The team appeared at least a year away from contention. Before the season began, Baseball Prospectus projected the Braves to win 76 games.
Atlanta exceeded that by 14 victories. The Braves were the first NL team to clinch a division. With the dual threat of veteran first baseman Freddie Freeman and sensational rookie outfielder Ronald Acuña, the team ran away with the NL East.
“I just want to congratulate the Braves on a tremendous season,” Roberts said. “[Manager] Brian [Snitker] and his entire staff, the players, it was really fun to watch those guys compete this year and for us to be here in this great city and this fan base, it brought out the best in us, and we’re going to be dealing with those guys more in the future.”
KEMP LEANS ON UTLEY FOR BENCH ADVICE
Relegated to a platoon position in the second half, starting only against left-handers, Matt Kemp said he leaned upon veteran Chase Utley for tips on how to handle a reduced role. Utley experienced a similar transition after joining the Dodgers in 2015, and offered advice on how to stay fresh while on the bench.
The Dodgers rely upon platoons. They sit players like Kemp, David Freese and Chris Taylor against right-handers, but all three usually start against left-handers. A day off is not a day off for this group; they have to be ready to hop off the bench at any moment.
“We got guys on the bench that could go somewhere and play every single day and make an impact,” Kemp said. “But we’re trying to win a championship, and every guy is on the same page, and our own common goal is to win a championship. And everybody is staying ready. We start getting ready the second, third inning, just in case something happens. You just never know.”