Should the Phillies start Cole Hamels in Game 7?

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Cole Hamels has clarified his headline-grabbing quotes about wanting the season to be over and last night’s incident with Brett Myers may have just been an attempt at humor, but the left-hander’s 7.58 ERA this postseason still has Phillies fans questioning if he’s the right choice for a potential Game 7 start against CC Sabathia.
Charlie Manuel has already picked Pedro Martinez to start tomorrow, but an alternative would have been to give J.A. Happ the Game 6 nod and save Martinez for Game 7. While the notion of a World Series-deciding Martinez-Sabathia matchup is exciting, the Phillies obviously need to win Game 6 before there can be a Game 7 and holding Pedro back for a start that may never arrive would leave Manuel open to tons of criticism.
In other words, worry first about forcing a Game 7 and then worry about how to win a Game 7. If the Phillies win tomorrow night behind a strong outing from Martinez they can go with either Happ or Hamels in Game 7 while also having basically everyone on the pitching staff available in an all-hands-on-deck situation. That wouldn’t have been true with Happ starting Game 6 and Martinez reserved for Game 7.
Of course, the choice between Hamels or Happ is another issue entirely. Back in spring training the notion of going with Happ over Hamels in a World Series-deciding start would have seemed absolutely absurd, but it’s certainly a legitimate question at this point. During the regular season Happ was 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA compared to Hamels going 10-11 with a 4.32 ERA, and Hamels has allowed 16 runs in 19 postseason innings.
On the other hand Happ hasn’t started since Game 3 of the NLDS way back on October 11, when he gave up three runs while lasting just three innings against the Rockies. Since then he’s been used strictly as a reliever and has pitched sparingly while not being particularly effective, serving up a homer to Nick Swisher in relief of Hamels in Game 3 and allowing four of 11 batters to reach base.
There are certainly reasonable arguments to be made on all sides. However, like Manuel my choice would be Martinez starting Game 6 with everyone available for a possible Game 7 rather than the other way around, and I’d still go with Hamels over Happ with the season on the line against Sabathia. Hamels started the Phillies’ final playoff game last season and he should get a chance to do the same this year.

Clayton Kershaw can win in the postseason! Who knew?

Clayton Kershaw
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Sometime after their Game 2 loss to the Rangers last week, the Blue Jays decided they trusted Marcus Stroman more than Cy Young candidate David Price in a potential Game 5 start. Such is the power of a postseason slump.

It can lead to one of the best hitters in the world being dropped to the eighth spot in the lineup. It can lead to quality regulars sitting at highly irregular times. In the postseason, what you did yesterday matters 10 times as much as what you did last month, usually not for the better.

Fortunately, Clayton Kershaw never had to worry about being skipped because of his postseason struggles. Even calling them struggles overstate the reality. In his previous three postseason starts, Kershaw had:

  • Allowed two runs over six innings in Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the Cardinals before being left in to give up a whopping six runs in the seventh
  • Pitched six scoreless innings on three days’ rest in Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS before giving up a three-run homer in the seventh
  • Allowed one run over 6 2/3 innings in Game 1 against the Mets before his two inherited runners came around to score off the pen
So, yes, Kershaw entered Tuesday’s outing against the Mets with a 4.99 postseason ERA, but he had turned in six quality starts in nine tries, allowing one earned run or fewer three times. It wasn’t nearly regular-season Kershaw, but it also wasn’t as bad as the ERA suggests, not when he’d been the victim of slow hooks and lousy bullpen support.

And, really, Tuesday’s win over the Mets didn’t seem much different at all than Kershaw previous couple of postseason starts, at least through six innings. Maybe the fastball was amped a bit. The real difference this time was that he made it through the seventh. Best of all, since he was on three days’ rest, Don Mattingly wasn’t tempted to send him back out for the eighth at 94 pitches, as he probably would have done had Kershaw been on normal rest. The bullpen took over and turned in two hitless innings in the 3-1 win, sending the NLDS back to Los Angeles for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.

It’s completely unnecessary redemption for Kershaw, who had nothing in need of redeeming. But it’ll keep the trolls quiet for now and also all winter if Kershaw doesn’t get the chance to pitch again. He’d surely prefer to risk the chance of failure again next week in the NLCS.

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers top Mets in Game 4 of NLDS to force a Game 5

AP Photo/Kathy Willens

There will be a decisive NLDS Game 5 on Thursday evening in Los Angeles.

Clayton Kershaw yielded just three hits and struck out eight batters over seven innings of one-run ball and Justin Turner hit his fourth double of the series — a two-run poke down the left field line in the top of the third inning — as the Dodgers defeated the Mets 3-1 in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Tuesday night at Citi Field.

Kershaw’s past postseason demons peaked their head out when Yoenis Cespedes reached on an infield single to lead off the bottom of the seventh, but there was no Matt Adams or Matt Carpenter to make him pay this time around. Kershaw retired the next three batters in order and then gave way to reliever Chris Hatcher for the eighth inning having thrown 94 pitches on short rest.

The only run Kershaw allowed was on a Daniel Murphy solo shot in the fourth inning. The other two hits he surrendered were singles.

Los Angeles’ bullpen answered the call after Kershaw’s departure, with Hatcher and closer Kenley Jansen combining to post two big zeroes on the scoreboard in Queens. Jansen secured the final four outs, earning his fifth career postseason save and second this October.

Jacob deGrom is lined up for the Mets and Zack Greinke will be on the hill for Los Angeles in the loser-goes-home tilt Thursday at Dodger Stadium. This series is shaping up to be a classic.

The winner Thursday will face the Cubs in the National League Championship Series.

Video: Justin Turner gives Dodgers early Game 4 lead with two-run double

AP Photo/Julie Jacobson
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Clayton Kershaw has looked sharp on the mound and at the plate so far in this must-win NLDS Game 4 at New York’s Citi Field.

After no-hitting the Mets in the first two frames, Kershaw smacked a one-out single to left-center field in the top of third inning. Howie Kendrick followed soon after with a two-out single to left and then Adrian Gonzalez blooped a ball to shallow center that drove in Enrique Hernandez, who had reached earlier on a fielder’s choice grounder to second base.

That all set up this Justin Turner two-run double down the left field line that put Los Angeles up 3-0

That’s now four doubles this postseason for Turner, which is a Dodgers franchise record for the Division Series. Los Angeles is trying to force a Game 5.