The Dodgers were built in such a way that any one particular player isn’t absolutely essential to their success. Their depth has been an advantage all season and into the playoffs, and these longer series without days off should only enhance that upper hand.
But in Game 2 they start Clayton Kershaw, who just might have the largest impact of any individual player on a specific game in this series.
It’s not necessarily how Kershaw goes, so go the Dodgers on Wednesday night. He could be rescued (or done in) by the bullpen, and/or buoyed by an offense that led the majors in runs scored and home runs this year, an offense that expects good results from its approach in October.
Given how Walker Buehler is limited with his blister — pitching four innings in each of his three starts since returning from the injured list — and how the Dodgers routinely pulled starters Dustin May, Julio Urías, and Tony Gonsolin earlier rather than later all season, Kershaw is the lone Dodgers starter with any sort of rope to pitch deep into games at the moment.
He’s earned it, with a 1.90 ERA in 11 starts this season, including his eight-inning, 13-strikeout scoreless bonanza last Thursday against Milwaukee. It’s not that Kershaw should be expected to pitch eight innings again; in fact, you should probably bet very heavily against it. Kershaw doesn’t even have to go seven innings, though if he does it would be the first time he’s pitched at least that long in consecutive postseason starts.
But even lasting six innings, something Kershaw did seven times in his last nine starts, would be a huge boost in a potential five-game series over five days. Or go a long way toward ending the series earlier.
Consider that, even excluding the planned bullpen game in their last series, Padres starters have pitched a total of 5⅓ innings in three games, any pitcher who can last even relatively deep into a game is worth their weight in gold.
Dodgers relievers have pitched 11 (scoreless) innings in seven days in this postseason, compared to 30⅔ innings for the Padres.
“I think you’re going to play to win every night,” manager Dave Roberts said Tuesday. “But there is a point where you’ve got to pay a tax on that. I think that right now, where we’re going into Game 2, we feel pretty good.”
For Game 2, San Diego turns to Zach Davies, who allowed four runs in two innings in his start the wild card series last Thursday. Davies has enjoyed success against the Dodgers in his career, posting a 2.37 ERA in eight starts, with 40 strikeouts and 10 walks in 49⅓ innings, plus a scoreless inning during the 2018 NLCS.
This season Davies has a 3.46 ERA in two starts against the Dodgers, lasting seven and six innings in those games, which the Padres would kill for on Wednesday night. Even though he allowed only five runs in those two starts while pitching reasonably deep, Davies lost both games.
Notes & links
- Kershaw has never pitched at the Rangers ballpark, old or new. It’s the MLB stadium closest to his high school, just outside of Dallas. On Tuesday, he couldn’t quite remember when he last pitched in the area. “I guess it was a high school game, maybe,” Kershaw said. “I mean, we won I think, and that was about it.”
- In one of his last high school games, back in 2006, Kershaw homered and struck out 15 in a mercy-rule-shortened perfect game.
- Jorge Castillo at the LA Times talked to the coach of that opposing high school team.
- Globe Life Field will be the 28th current MLB ballpark Kershaw has pitched in. Baltimore and Minnesota are the two remaining holdouts.
- Ben Lindbergh at The Ringer wrote about Kershaw’s resurgent season.
- The key for Kershaw on Wednesday will be how the Padres attack his first pitch, wrote Mike Petriello at MLB.com.
- J.P. Breen previewed Game 2 for Baseball Prospectus, in which PECOTA gives the Dodgers a 68.5-percent chance of winning.
Game 2 info
Time: 6:08 p.m. PT