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.
After finishing off the Braves, Roberts made sure to praise them.
“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.