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Dodgers need Clayton Kershaw to be the best

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MLB: NLDS- Los Angeles Dodgers Workout Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers open their 2017 postseason with their best-laid plan, sending Clayton Kershaw to the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw is widely considered the best pitcher in baseball, and has been for some time. He has the best career ERA (2.36) among starting pitchers in the live ball era. But his postseason ERA is 4.55 in 18 career games, including 15 starts. Since the start of 2013, Kershaw has a 4.28 ERA in 12 playoff starts plus one NLDS-clinching save.

That’s not good enough.

Thursday’s announcement that Alex Wood is “set in stone” to pitch a potential Game 4 meant a likely end to Kershaw’s streak of four straight years of pitching on three days rest in the NLDS.

“Logic says that any pitcher that's used to routine and going on regular rest is probably stronger and has a best chance of success,” manager Dave Roberts said on Thursday.

Kershaw wasn’t thinking about Game 4 on Thursday.

“I think that's the most important thing for me is to just focus on tomorrow,” Kershaw said. “Usually how that stuff happens is when Game 4 rolls around, things change. But it really sounds like that's not going to happen this year. But I'll worry about that when it happens.”

In Kershaw’s 12 playoff starts over the last four years, his ERA in the first five innings is 2.59.

Afterward, it is 11.57. The peripheral numbers have been much better, but it doesn’t make the losses any less real.

Clayton Kershaw playoff starts, 2013-2016

1-5 59 44 21 17 5 12 74 2.59 2.35 0.949
6+ 14 17 18 18 2 6 21 11.57 3.34 1.643

Kershaw in two starts against Arizona this season has allowed one total run in 15⅓ innings, with 19 strikeouts and three walks. Both were at Dodger Stadium, where he hasn’t lost to Arizona since Aug. 30, 2012.

This is the 20th meeting between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks this season, their most times facing a single opponent in one year since 1961, when they played the other seven National League teams 22 times each.

“There are no secrets, for sure. I think when it comes down to it, you just go out there and try to compete and just be better than them. You're not going to out think them,” Kershaw said. “You're not going to out this or that. They know what you do. I know what they do. At the end of the day, you have to go out there and compete.”

Game 1 info

Time: 7:31 p.m. PT

TV: TBS (Brian Anderson, Dennis Eckersley, Joe Simpson, Lauren Shehadi)

Online: TBScom and the Watch TBS app

Local radio: AM 570 (Charley Steiner, Rick Monday)

National radio: ESPN Radio (Dan Shulman, Aaron Boone)