The Los Angeles Dodgers coasted to a big win Sunday night on the backs of the bats of the entire team. Scoring 13 runs en route to a convincing win, the Dodgers head to Game 4 of the NLDS against the Atlanta Braves with a 2-1 series lead. Heading into the potential series-clinching Game 4, some have called for manager Don Mattingly to skip the expected starter, Ricky Nolasco, and pitch the Dodgers’ ace and likely Cy Young winner, Clayton Kershaw. This is not a bad idea, but it is also not a good idea.
I can think of two somewhat valid justifications for Kershaw starting tonight’s game for the Dodgers. First, with the Braves expected to send out Freddy Garcia, Kershaw would likely be able to wipe the floor with him, sending the Dodgers to the 2013 NLCS. Second, the Dodgers would not have to worry about Nolasco pitching as he has been hot and cold this season. In fact, more recently, Nolasco has been downright frigid in his performances. In his last five starts, Nolasco’s ERA was 6.93 with only 24.2 innings pitched, an average of less than five innings per start.
Nevertheless, I still think the Dodgers should hold off on Kershaw. Although it would be nice to clinch the series in Game 4 and not have to risk going to a deciding Game 5, it would be better for the team to save Kershaw. There is still a realistic probability that Nolasco gets the job done as Garcia has a 4.37 ERA and a 4-7 record on the season. Further, despite Nolasco’s recent struggles, he is playing at home and Chavez Ravine has been good to Nolasco since coming to the Dodgers in early July. When pitching at home as a Dodger this season, Nolasco is 4-2 in six starts with a 2.55 ERA and a 1.132 WHIP. Nolasco has proven to be able to get things done at home.
As reports say the Dodgers are planning on holding off on using Kershaw, they are making the right choice. If Nolasco gets the job done tonight, the Dodgers will be sitting easy, waiting for their NLCS opponents with Kershaw and Greinke ready to go for games one and two again. If Nolasco loses, then they still have Kershaw for Game 5. Good things come to those who wait, so Kershaw should be saved.
Update: The Dodgers surprisingly announced that Kershaw will indeed start Game 4 in a questionable decision given the circumstances. Here’s hoping it pays off!