Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is under a lot of pressure if he starts NLCS Game 4. Prepare yourself.
No, no. Every Kershaw playoff start is a referendum on his legacy. It’s a chance for nay-sayers to confirm their predispositions, more often than not, and it’s another attempt to send supporters scrambling, digging up advanced statistics to explain away the unexplainable.
Every time Kershaw appears on the mound in October, it seems he is either expected to fight for his historical placement or solely save a season.
And after the offense flailed in Game 1 against Max Fried and for six innings in Game 2 against Ian Anderson, it’s now Kershaw’s job to save the postseason run of what many perceived to be the Dodgers’ best chance in 30 years to break their championship drought. Unfortunately, this is just about the most pressure that’s ever been placed on the lefty’s shoulders … and he’s dealing with back spasms.
Kershaw possesses the type of greatness that unfortunately pushes his failures center-stage.
His postseason résumé features some starts so incredible that they’d stand the test of time and define any other pitcher — his 2013 NLDS Game 1 in Atlanta is basically a Roger Clemens 15-K game in Seattle for a new generation.
Unfortunately, that’s not how the Kershaw Debate works. His pedestal is so much higher than those of his peers that, at eye level, we’re more likely to see the graffiti left by haters on its base than the accolades at the top. It doesn’t help, either, that Justin Verlander has unfortunately been everything we deem Kershaw to be in October. Both have the impressive game logs; only one has the hardware.
After full consideration, it truly does seem as if this bizarre 2020 NLCS Game 4, played in front of a smattering of fans in a ballpark that belongs to no one, is the second-best chance Kershaw has ever had to alter his narrative.
Game 5 of the 2017 World Series ranks first, to me.
But now, after Kershaw was scratched in Game 2 because of back spasms, forcing Tony Gonsolin into action, which eventually put LA in an 0-2 hole, the Dodgers came roaring back on Wednesday night, erupting for 11 runs in the first inning and routing the Braves in Game 3.
The series is 2-1 and Kershaw has a prime opportunity to turn the tides. Knotting this thing up at 2-2 would completely flip the momentum and give the Dodgers the edge because of their pitching depth.
The Braves don’t even know who they’d be starting in Game 4, and they could be forced to throw Fried on short rest in Game 5, while the Dodgers may have played their hand perfectly for Dustin May to start Game 5 given how little he’s pitched this postseason. That would give them Buehler on full rest for Game 6 against, theoretically, rookie Ian Anderson on short rest.
But first, Kershaw has to take care of business in what could be the second-most important start of his very long postseason career. Going down 3-1 isn’t an option right now. If he could flip the momentum in his favor, that would do wonders for his legacy.