LOS ANGELES -- Down two games to none in the NLCS, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly reiterated on Sunday that he doesn't plan to use either Zack Greinke or Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Games 4 or 5 against the Cardinals.
Hyun-jin Ryu is the scheduled starter for Game 3, and Ricky Nolasco is the scheduled starter for Game 4. But Nolasco was the scheduled starter in Game 4 of the NLDS against the Braves, too, and Kershaw instead took the ball to help close out the series.
Kershaw was limited to 91 pitches in Game 4 against the Braves on three days rest, but allowed only two unearned runs in his six innings.
Nolasco allowed 19 runs in 12 innings over his final three starts of the regular season, and he hasn't started since Sept. 25, 20 days from his Tuesday scheduled start.
Add in that Zack Greinke only threw 104 pitches on Friday, cruising with 14 straight batters retired to end his Game 1, and that Kershaw threw a mere 72 pitches on Saturday in Game 2, and you have the perfect storm of another pair of short rest opportunities. Or perhaps Kershaw could be available out of the bullpen in Games 3 or 4 if his next start isn't until Game 6 on Friday.
"We haven't talked about Kershaw out of the bullpen," Mattingly said on Sunday. "We haven't talked about anybody on three day's rest."
Greinke has pitched on three days rest twice before in his career (not counting a three-inning return to the rotation start in 2007 three days after a one-inning relief appearance). Needing a victory on the final day of the 2011 regular season to secure the No. 2 seed for the Brewers and home field advantage in the NLDS, Greinke allowed just two runs in six innings in a win over the Pirates.
Four days later Greinke pitched Game 2 of the NLDS against Arizona. He struck out seven and walked none, but allowed four runs, including three home runs, in five innings. Adam McCalvy and Jordan Schelling of MLB.com wrote about the decisions in between the outings of 74 and 86 pitches by Greinke:
"[Greinke] knew he needed to win, but he was pitching [Wednesday] as if he was also going to [pitch] Sunday," Roenicke said. "I think ideally, if we were going to set it up and had we known four or five days ago, we probably would have set it up the same way. But with where they lined up at the end, this made the most sense to us."
Even if Greinke and Kershaw pitch on short rest, Nolasco would have to start Game 6 anyway as Ryu is not a likely option to start on short rest as well. That means the Dodgers would be just rearranging the same four pitchers in the next four games, only with their two best slightly diminished and/or limited.
For the strategy of using Greinke and Kershaw on short rest to work, Greinke would have to be used on three days rest a second time in Game 7. That gives the Dodgers five starts from their two aces in seven games. But as we saw in the first two games, starting Kershaw and Greinke doesn't guarantee anything. But maximizing Greinke and Kershaw might still make sense.
"It always makes sense anytime you mention those two guys' names," Mattingly said. "But it's something, as I said, we haven't talked about at this point."
I'd be inclined to believe Mattingly, but I think back to Greinke's interview on Thursday in St. Louis, a day before his Game 1 start. Skip ahead to the 2:30 mark in this video to see Greinke's response to pitching on three days rest:
"I could probably respond to it, but it might give information out that we might want to keep a secret, so I just won't respond to that question for that reason," Greinke said with a wry smile.
I wouldn't put it past Greinke to simply troll everyone with misinformation about misinformation, but the fact remains there is considerable doubt that the Dodgers haven't at the very least discussed using their two best pitchers on short rest.
On Monday before Game 3, we get the chance to go though the formality of asking questions of the Game 4 starters in the interview room, a practice done the day before as baseball tradition demands the starting pitcher be left alone on the day of his start.
Scheduled to talk on Monday afternoon is Nolasco. Will he set the record for most press conferences without actually pitching, or will he take the mound Tuesday in Game 4?
We'll find out at some point on Tuesday, but let's just say for now that I'll take Mattingly's insistence with several grains of salt.