LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are going for the jugular on Monday night at Dodger Stadium. Clayton Kershaw will start for the Dodgers against the Braves on three-days rest in Game 4 of the National League Division Series.
It is Kershaw's first career start on short rest.
The move came after several days of manager Don Mattingly insisting Ricky Nolasco was his Game 4 starer, despite a dismal finish to his regular season. But Mattingly made his assertions with several caveats.
"Right now Ricky is the pitcher in Game 4," Mattingly said on Sunday. "That's what we've decided. Right now, Ricky is the pitcher."
"Right now" was and remains the key phrase, as those plans have obviously changed.
The last Dodgers pitcher to start on three days rest in the postseason was Derek Lowe in Game 4 of the 2008 NLCS. Lowe lasted five innings in that game and was relieved in the sixth inning by Kershaw, then a 20-year-old rookie.
The risk of the move is exposing Kershaw's arm, the most valuable limb in the baseball world and one that threw 124 pitches on Thursday night, to potential injury given that he is simply not used to pitching on short rest. Perhaps that is overblown, is pitchers used to throw on three days rest all the time but since that is no longer the norm it feels wrong because it's so different.
"If the opportunity presented itself, I'm definitely not opposed to it," Kershaw said on Wednesday, one day before starting Game 1.
But Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball, so it's understandable that Mattingly wants to deploy his best weapon as much as possible. A slightly diminished Kershaw, in Mattingly's estimation, is preferable to Nolasco, who allowed 19 runs in 12 innings over his final three starts.
Kershaw has allowed 19 runs in his last 13 starts.
The rewards are obvious. Kershaw gives the Dodgers the best chance to win the NLDS in four games, and even if the Dodgers lose they can turn to Zack Greinke on full rest in Game 5 in Atlanta. If the Dodgers win Game 4, they get to open the NLCS with Greinke-Kershaw in Games 1 and 2, and both can still pitch twice in the first six games of the series on full rest.
Nolasco to his credit said he wouldn't object if the Dodgers looked elsewhere for their Game 4 starter.
"This isn't about me, this is about the team," Nolasco said Sunday. "They are the ones who get paid to make those decisions. I'll be here ready to take the ball whenever they ask me to pitch."
If the Dodgers do advance, they will almost certainly need Nolasco to pitch. But the Dodgers will burn that bridge when they get to it.
Time: 6:37 p.m.