In a meeting with Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in the middle of September, manager Dave Roberts informed Kershaw that the team does not intend to use him on short rest in the first round of the playoffs, bucking a trend from the past four postseasons.
With Kershaw lined up for Game 1 on Friday, the Dodgers intend to use Rich Hill in Game 2 and Yu Darvish in Game 3. Roberts has not revealed a starter for the fourth game, if necessary, but he insisted it will not be Kershaw.
“Clayton is up for anything that we ask of him, which he’s always done,” Roberts said. “But we’ve assured him that the reason you acquire a guy like Yu Darvish is to keep [Kershaw] away from short rest. You look at our starters, our potential playoff starters, we’re in great shape.”
It is worth remembering that the Dodgers have also made an annual ritual of swearing they will not use Kershaw on short rest — only to do so when needed.
Kershaw is one of the few pitchers in baseball who still pitches regularly on three days of rest, rather than the usual number of four, in the postseason. He did so twice in the 2016 postseason, not including a relief appearance on one day of rest in the decisive Game 5 against Washington in the first round.
The workload appeared to catch up with Kershaw by his fourth start of that postseason, as the Cubs bombed him five runs in five innings as the Dodgers were eliminated from the playoffs in the sixth game of the National League Championship Series.
Aware of the risk in stretching Kershaw thin, especially after injuring his back for the second summer in a row, the Dodgers pursued Darvish at the deadline. They were willing to part with a three-player package, headlined by well-regarded prospect Willie Calhoun, to procure Darvish.
Turner falls short of batting title
The math was not in Justin Turner’s favor. In order to overtake Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon for the National League batting title, Turner would have needed to go 5 for 5 while Blackmon went 0 for 4. Neither man was expected to receive that many at-bats, and both left the game by the fourth inning.
Turner went 1-for-2 to finish the season at .322. Blackmon won the title with a .331 average.
Barnes survives painful foul ball
Austin Barnes was considered available for Sunday’s game despite absorbing a foul ball in the groin on Saturday. Barnes described the discomfort as significant. Roberts referred to Barnes’ injury as “just a little soreness.”
Informed that he was not being particularly sensitive to Barnes’ condition, Roberts grinned.
“Time heals all wounds,” Roberts said.