LOS ANGELES -- Stop me if you've heard this before, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly after Monday night's Game 3 win over the Cardinals used the two magic words when naming Ricky Nolasco as his Game 4 starting pitcher.
"He's been set up the whole time for Game 4," Mattingly said. "As of right now, Ricky Nolasco will be pitching tomorrow."
Ah, right now. The same words Mattingly used repeatedly in the NLDS against the Braves, insisting that Nolasco was his Game 4 starter in that series.
Kershaw started Game 4 against Atlanta.
There are compelling reasons to start Nolasco in Game 4:
- Despite not having started since Sept. 25 and having allowed 19 runs in 12 innings in his last three starts, Nolasco was 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA in 15 starts with the Dodgers.
- Nolasco had a 2.48 ERA in six games, including five starts, at Dodger Stadium this season, with 30 strikeouts and 10 walks in 36⅔ innings.
- He is 3-1 with an 0.85 ERA in five starts against the Cardinals in the last three seasons, with 20 strikeouts, seven walks and three earned runs (eight total runs) in 31⅔ innings.
- Unless the Dodgers plan to start Zack Greinke twice on three days rest, as he did with the Brewers in 2011, the Dodgers will have to start Nolasco once in this series again anyway. Assuming Greinke and Clayton Kershaw (who threw only 72 pitches on Saturday) start in Games 4-5 on short rest, that would leave Game 6 for Nolasco (considering that Hyun-jin Ryu wouldn't likely also start on three days rest).
That last point is most important, as it gives the Dodgers the option of choosing where to use Nolasco. He has been more effective at home, so better to start him in Los Angeles in Game 4 rather than in St. Louis in Game 6.
There was some doubt earlier Monday, when Mattingly said Game 3's outcome might determine his Game 4 starter. But since the win Monday ensured that the Dodgers couldn't get eliminated on Tuesday, they aren't desperate enough to try potentially three starts on short rest in the final four games of the series.
So for right now, Nolasco is scheduled to start Game 4 for the Dodgers, against Lance Lynn of the Cardinals.
But around 11 a.m. PT or noon on Tuesday, don't be surprised if plans change. Game 4 starts at 5:07 p.m., and will be televised by TBS.