The Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw have a chance to change the script on Tuesday night in Game 4 of their National League Division Series against the Mets. With a road elimination game at hand and a five-game monkey squarely on Kershaw's back, Game 4 can either add more fuel to the fire or turn things around for a Dodgers team in desperate need of ... something.
The club hasn't won a playoff elimination game on the road since the 1981 National League Championship Series in Montreal. Down 2-1 to the Expos, the Dodgers won Game 4, 7-1, by scoring two runs in the eighth to break a tie then four more in the ninth, then won a tight Game 5 thanks to a ninth-inning home run by Rick Monday off Steve Rogers that sent the Dodgers to the World Series.
Part of this is a function of opportunity, which comes with the territory of no World Series and limited playoff success since 1988.
In Game 4 of the 1983 NLCS, the Dodgers lost to the Phillies 7-2 at Veterans Stadium and were eliminated.
In Game 3 of the 1995 NLDS, the Reds walloped the 10-1 at Riverfront Stadium to complete the sweep.
In Game 3 of the 1996 NLDS, the Braves finished off the the Dodgers 5-2 at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium.
In Game 5 of the 2009 NLCS, the Phillies won 10-4 at Citizens Bank Park to eliminate the Dodgers again.
In Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS, the Cardinals beat the Dodgers 9-0 at Busch Stadium to end LA's season.
In Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS, St. Louis prevailed again, 3-2 over the Dodgers on Matt Adams' home run.
That's six times in 33 years the Dodgers needed a road win to keep their postseason alive, and six times they were sent home, by a combined score of 44-11.
The last two were started by Kershaw, with 2014 the most cruel of all. Kershaw was dominant through six innings on three days rest (as he will be on Tuesday night), with nine strikeouts and no runs on two hits. Up 2-0 entering the seventh, with the bullpen options not all that appealing, Kershaw remained in, allowed two questionable infield singles, then hung a curveball at the worst possible time to Adams for a three-run shot.
Kershaw has lost five straight playoff starts, including Game 1 of this series, when he struck out 11 but faded in the seventh with three walks, the first time he did that in an inning in 95 starts.
Kershaw's ERA in those five starts is 6.44, which there is no real way of sugarcoating (even though his FIP is roughly 3.02 in those five games, with 40 strikeouts and nine walks in his 29⅓ innings). There were two truly bad starts - Game 6 in 2013 and Game 1 in 2014 when Kershaw allowed a total of 15 runs.
But outside of that 2014 Game 1 start, when the Kershaw blew a 6-1 lead, the Dodgers have given him almost no run support. In the other four games of Kershaw's five-game playoff losing streak, the Dodgers have scored a total of three runs, including just two while Kershaw was in the game.
Trying to provide that run support on Tuesday night will likely be an all-right-handed outfield against Mets left-hander Steven Matz, with all of six major league starts under his belt. They were very good starts, with a 2.27 ERA, 34 strikeouts and 10 walks in 35.. innings, including six shutout innings in a win at Dodger Stadium on July 5.
Kershaw is 3-0 with a 1.01 ERA in four career starts at Citi Field, including a three-hit shutout against a much-weaker Mets lineup on July 23.
The Dodgers need to win Game 4 to force a Game 5, but to win the series they will need to win with their two best pitchers on the mound, in Kershaw and Zack Greinke. a During the regular season since the start of 2013, Kershaw and Greinke have started back-to-back games 79 times, and the Dodgers have won both games 32 times (40.5 percent). They have split 43 times (54.4 percent), and have lost both games four times (5.1 percent).
In 2015, out of their 29 back-to-back starts during the season, the Dodgers won both 11 times (37.9 percent) with 16 splits (55.2 percent) and two losses twice (6.9 percent).
In the playoffs, the Dodgers have yet to win both games when those two start consecutive games, in five tries.
There's a first time for everything.
Game 4 info
Time: 5:07 p.m. PT