Dodgers don’t need to push Clayton Kershaw with bullpen performing – Daily News

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LOS ANGELES — During October, the seventh inning is the spot in a haunted house where the machete-wielding zombie jumps out.

Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has pitched into the seventh inning in nine of his 15 postseason starts. He has recorded 18 outs in those seventh innings – and been charged with 17 runs, avoiding the machete and putting up a zero only three times.

It’s the kind of history that should make a manager think long and hard about sending Kershaw out for the seventh inning of a playoff game.

“I think to discount it entirely is not something I like to do with information,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who sent Kershaw out for the seventh inning of his Game 1 start in the NL Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. Kershaw retired one batter then gave up back-to-back home runs to the softest part of the Diamondbacks’ lineup – the seventh- and eighth-place hitters, Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis.

Roberts said he had an upper limit of 110 pitches in mind for Kershaw going into that start (despite the fact that he hadn’t gone past 97 since mid-July before a lower back strain sent him to the DL for five weeks) and Kershaw had thrown 92 through the first six innings. That cap will be discussed with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and potentially re-adjusted before Kershaw starts Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, Roberts said.

“With the strength of our bullpen and the confidence I have in those guys, there’s nothing in me that says Clayton has to be pushed,” Roberts said.

Roberts said going into the NLDS that Kershaw would not be pushed to make a start on short rest in Game 4 and any temptation to go back on that was avoided with the sweep of the Diamondbacks. But pushing Kershaw into his personal dark alley will be a temptation every time he pitches in the postseason.

“It’s just watching the game and seeing how Clayton is throwing the baseball on a particular night in the postseason,” Roberts said. “No one wants it more than he does and no one is going to compete more. But I think having the guys in the ’pen that I feel very confident in going to lends itself to not pushing him.”

Kershaw hasn’t necessarily been pushed into those seventh innings. He entered them having thrown on average fewer than 90 pitches, more than 94 just twice. But the exchange rate between regular-season pitch counts and postseason pitch counts is not even.

“I haven’t obviously dug into every seventh inning that he’s had,” Roberts said. “But I think some of it is on short rest that’s got him in the seventh inning. It seems like as I recall it’s been a pitch each inning that gets him. I can’t speak to all of them.

“I can speak to last year. I think it was in the DS against the Nationals (Game 4) where the pitch count started to get up and he ultimately had that walk to (Bryce) Harper (to load the bases). At that point in time, I really pushed him there. And that was on a short-rest game.”

That was actually one of only three times Kershaw pitched into the seventh inning on short rest – and one of those was his best postseason start (seven scoreless innings against the Chicago Cubs in Game 2 of last year’s NLCS). Kershaw has actually been very good on short rest in the playoffs – a 2.48 ERA and 0.80 WHIP.

NLCS ROTATION

Roberts was not ready to name his starting rotation for the next round beyond Kershaw getting the assignment Saturday.

“We know who our Game 1 starter is. That’s about it,” he said. “We’ve got a couple days to decide.

“To just kind of set it in stone right now doesn’t make sense without digging into matchups, home-road, weather – things like that.”

The Dodgers opted to start Rich Hill in Game 2 of the NLDS and Yu Darvish in Game 3 because of Hill’s decidedly stronger history at Dodger Stadium than Chase Field.

There is no obvious reason to change the rotation. Neither Hill nor Darvish has much history against either potential opponent. Hill, who spent his first four big-league seasons with the Cubs, has faced them just once for two-thirds of an inning with the Red Sox in 2011. Darvish has made one start each against the Cubs (last season) and Nationals (in 2014) while playing for the Texas Rangers in the American League.

Hill’s strong record at Dodger Stadium makes him a likely repeat choice for Game 2. He was 7-5 with a 2.77 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .179 average against at Dodger Stadium this year (5-3 with a 4.06 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and .233 opponents’ average on the road).

Conversely, Darvish was a better road pitcher (a 2.44 ERA and 1.06 WHIP) than at home (5.25 ERA, 1.26 WHIP) this season. But 12 of those 16 home starts came when hitter-friendly Texas was his home.

ALSO

Left-hander Luis Avilan threw to hitters again and could be the Dodgers’ only roster change for the NLCS. Avilan missed the NLDS due to shoulder inflammation. … Start times for the first two games of the NLCS were announced Wednesday. Game 1 on Saturday at Dodger Stadium will start at 5:08 p.m. Game 2 on Sunday will start at 4:38 p.m. Both will be televised on TBS.



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