Clayton Kershaw should’ve been the Dodgers’ No. 1 starter for the postseason.
The Los Angeles Dodgers are in trouble, no matter how you look at it. And once again, it’s because manager Dave Roberts has made the wrong decision (or perhaps the front office, we’ll never know for sure).
Even though LA swept through the first five games of the postseason against the Milwaukee Brewers and San Diego Padres, they couldn’t have expected the same against the Atlanta Braves. And the biggest mistake has been trotting Walker Buehler out there as the Game 1 starter for three straight times despite his nagging blister issues.
He was limited to 13 innings across those three starts, which isn’t what you want from your postseason ace. Clayton Kershaw should have been the team’s No. 1 starter for the playoffs. Perhaps they would have avoided watching him get scratched with a back issue on Tuesday.
"“Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw initially felt discomfort during his bullpen session at Globe Life Field on Saturday,” writes Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times. “Kershaw played catch in the outfield and threw a bullpen at Globe Life Field hours after the announcement was made Tuesday. He last pitched in Game 2 of the National League Division Series last Wednesday.”"
With the Dodgers’ pitching arsenal, Buehler should’ve been the No. 3 starter. The more time he would’ve had to let his blisters heal, the better. And the staff could’ve picked up the slack in the meantime.
Even if Kershaw wasn’t able to pitch Game 1 of this series with his back issue, the Dodgers’ bullpen would’ve been in a much better position not having to take over for four or five innings every time Buehler was out there. Starting Kershaw in Game 1 followed by Dustin May in Game 2 could’ve worked perfectly. Then you have Buehler for Game 3 with Tony Gonsolin and/or Julio Urias to relieve him. Worst-case scenario, he’s starting Game 2 if Kershaw is scratched. May has looked incredible in short spurts, and we’d bet he’d be able to crank out six inning of work against playoff competition.
Instead, the flame-throwing right-hander is being wasted on one or two innings of relief to clean up after Buehler, who has to labor through his blisters.
And his shortened outing in Game 1 came back to bite the Dodgers after the bullpen surrendered four runs in the top of the ninth. If he’s able to go 2-3 more innings, that probably doesn’t happen.
If you’re worried about pitchers resting, well, that’s going to be a problem no matter how you look at it. What’s the use of having Buehler pitch games 1 and 6 for four or five innings? You could use him for Game 3 and then on short rest in Game 7 if needed. What’s the problem with that? He hasn’t been healthy enough all year to give you length. Why is that going to change during a nonstop 2020 postseason? Kershaw and May are more valuable on full rest of they can give you more innings to avoid having to go to the bullpen. Only the Game 1 starter in any seven-game series is going to get full rest. Nobody else is.
Perhaps this would’ve been viewed unfavorably, but right now it would’ve made a big difference for LA.