LOS ANGELES – The best pitcher on the planet is still looming over this National League Championship Series. Do you really believe the Los Angeles Dodgers won’t unleash Clayton Kershaw for Game 5? Can they afford not to after that jarring momentum shift on Wednesday night at Dodger Stadium?
“No, no, it’s going to be Kenta,” manager Dave Roberts said after the Cubs erupted during a 10-2 win that tied up the NLCS at 2-2 and forced the Dodgers to book a return trip to Chicago.
That would be Kenta Maeda, the finesse right-hander who gave up three runs in four innings and got the no-decision in a Game 1 loss at Wrigley Field. Going up against lefty Jon Lester, the two-time World Series champion the Cubs handed a $155 million contract with these playoff games specifically in mind, a Cy Young Award contender with the arsenal to neutralize Los Angeles’ left-handed-heavy lineup.
By all accounts, Roberts is a great communicator, creative strategist and Manager of the Year material. The Fox Sports 1 crew also captured Kershaw throwing a bullpen session that would have seemingly ruled him out for Thursday night anyway. But the Dodgers didn’t automatically get the benefit of the doubt.
“It’s not an elimination game,” Roberts said. “The accumulation of his usage over the last 10 days plays a factor in our decision, so I think those are kind of the reasons why we’re not going with Clayton tomorrow.
“He’s done what he’s always done in saying that he’ll do whatever we ask of him. (But) thinking through it, the best thing for us is to have him pitch Game 6 and have Kenta to go tomorrow. And with the guys that we have at the back end of the ‘pen, I feel really good about the position we’re in.”
Remember what Roberts said during his press conference before last week’s elimination Game 5 against the Washington Nationals in the NL Division Series.
Question: Would Kershaw be available for an out?
Answer: “No. Absolutely not.”
Kershaw, of course, nailed down the final two outs at Nationals Park, getting Mr. October Daniel Murphy to pop out with two runners on in the ninth inning, saving a 4-3 win and pushing his team into the NLCS.
Three days later, Kershaw absolutely shut down the Cubs in Game 2, allowing only two singles across seven innings in a 1-0 win that showed the three-time Cy Young Award winner might own this October, too.
But that seems like a long time ago in an NLCS filled with so much drama and emotion. Either way, a Cubs team feeling this shot of adrenaline will be looking forward to getting another chance to solve Kershaw.
“We try to stay true to who we are,” catcher David Ross said. “I think stories get made up. That’s what you guys (in the media) have to do. You have to write stories about guys not hitting and us not scoring runs. But we understand that we’re facing really good pitching and tough matchups and guys aren’t locked in yet. It’s a cat-and-mouse game. That’s why it’s a seven-game series. We’re glad to be back to even.”