Clayton Kershaw says he feels fine. He says he has no restrictions after willing the Dodgers into the National League championship series. And so the team will start him in its second game against the Chicago Cubs, to be played Sunday at Wrigley Field at 5 p.m. PT.
Manager Dave Roberts said the decision was a "no-brainer."
Kershaw last started Tuesday in Los Angeles, on short rest in Game 4 of the NLDS, but of course pitched in relief to close out the fifth game of that series Thursday in Washington. Thursday's seven-pitch appearance came on a standard side-session day, Kershaw argued to the team, so he was fit to start again on his normal five-day routine. "The intensity might have been just a hair different," he said Saturday.
The intensity was enormous. He warmed up full-bore in the bullpen and then entered to face "the best hitter on the planet," as he termed him: Washington's Daniel Murphy. He induced a popup, then struck out pinch-hitter Wilmer Difo to send the Dodgers into this round.
In the intervening days, Kershaw completed his normal in-between starts exercises, proving himself healthy. He could have started the second or third game of this series. The Dodgers opted to start him Sunday and left-hander Rich Hill on Tuesday in Los Angeles for Game 3.
"It's one of those things, obviously, when you get a chance for Clayton to pitch Games 2 and potentially 6, that's a good thing for us," Roberts said. "It's full go."
The Dodgers' fourth-game starter remains unannounced; the candidates are rookies Julio Urias and Ross Stripling. Urias is the likelier choice.
Kenta Maeda, Saturday's Game 1 starter, would be lined up to begin Game 5, and Kershaw and Hill would handle the sixth and seventh games if the series stretched there without earlier heroics required.
The Dodgers and Cubs played six times during the regular season, but Maeda, Kershaw, and Hill did not face Chicago.
Two on, two off
The Dodgers made two alterations to the 25-man roster for the National League Championship Series against the Cubs, adding utility man Enrique Hernandez and pitcher Alex Wood, while removing infielder Charlie Culberson and catcher Austin Barnes. Hernandez joins the club because, in years before 2016, he hit well against left-handed pitchers.
Hernandez started in Game 1 against Jon Lester. Hernandez hit a home run off Lester earlier this season.
Kyle Hendricks, who starts Game 2 for the Cubs, attended Capistrano Valley High in Mission Viejo. So, when he was asked in an interview session Saturday about his boyhood memories of the Dodgers, he had a ready retort.
"I was an Angel fan until I was eight or nine," Hendricks said.
And a Dodgers fan after that? "A Giants fan," he said. "J.T. Snow was my favorite player."
The Dodgers' Andre Ethier hit his fourth career postseason home run, with a fairly impressive collection of victimized pitchers: Adam Wainwright, Joel Pineiro, Cole Hamels and Jon Lester. Ethier's home run off Lester Saturday was his first off a left-hander at any time since he tagged Hamels on Aug. 18, 2013. …
The Cubs' Javier Baez brilliantly improvised on the bases, escaping what appeared to be getting caught off third base and ending up with a steal of home — the Cubs' first postseason steal of home since the 1907 World Series. The Cubs won the World Series in 1907 and 1908— and, as you might have heard a few million times, have not won the Series since then ...
Montero's pinch-hit grand slam was the third in major league history: Montero (Cubs, 2016); Ricky Ledee (Yankees, 1999) and Mark Lewis (Reds, 1995.)