You might see less of Clayton Kershaw the next time he takes the mound — and that’s a good thing. On Saturday, Dodgers’ skipper Dave Roberts announced that he would consider removing his ace earlier in games, rather than pushing him to the seventh or eighth inning in order to preserve the bullpen.
“I don’t like to take history or individual history into account too much,” Roberts told reporters, “because the recency, as far as that particular game, should hold a lot of value. But I do believe with the ‘pen that we have and the trust in it, you have to weigh everything in. […] It is my responsibility to look at all angles and decide how far to push him.”
The announcement came on the heels of the Dodgers’ 9-5 win over the Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the NLDS, when Kershaw’s velocity and breaking pitches started to noticeably deteriorate by the seventh inning. The loss of command fed into back-to-back home runs from Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis, the latter of which brought the D-backs within three runs of tying the game.
According to Roberts, it was a combination of the score and the Diamondbacks’ lineup that kept Kershaw out past his limit. With a sizable lead and the bottom of the order due up, three outs didn’t seem like a Herculean task for the southpaw. Had the game been closer, had Paul Goldschmidt or Jake Lamb been standing in the on-deck circle, there might have been a different conversation in the dugout.
In any event, the Dodgers seem more prepared for Kershaw’s next start, should they advance to the NLCS on Monday or push the NLDS to its five-game limit later in the week. After another decisive Game 2 win on Saturday, Roberts’ faith in his bullpen appears to be restored. “With the strength of our ‘pen, there’s nothing in me that says Clayton needs to be pushed and he needs to stay in until the game goes the other way,” he said.