With their season on the line, Clayton Kershaw will take the ball for the Los Angeles Dodgers Tuesday afternoon against the Washington Nationals. Sure, Kershaw missed two months of this season with a back injury, and his performances thus far have generally been shorter and more uneven than we are accustomed to from the three-time Cy Young winner.
But Kershaw has shown, time and again, that when the Dodgers feel they need him, he will pitch on three days’ rest. That’s exactly what he’ll do Tuesday, following up his shaky five-inning, 100-pitch effort in Game 1 (a 4-3 Dodgers’ victory) with whatever he has left today.
This will mark the fourth straight postseason in which Kershaw has pitched on short rest. A look at what has preceded this moment.
Oct. 7, 2013, Game 4 of National League Division Series vs. Atlanta
Kershaw won the first game of this series with seven innings of one-run ball, striking out 12. But with a chance to clinch back at Dodger Stadium, they sent Kershaw out again. He lasted six innings and 91 pitches, and might have been tossing a shutout if not for two errors by first baseman Adrian Gonzalez that allowed the Braves to score a pair of runs. When he departed, the score was tied 2-2. The Braves took a lead, but Juan Uribe’s two-run shot off David Carpenter in the bottom of the eighth lifted Los Angeles to the National League Championship Series.
Kershaw: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 91 pitches, 61 strikes
Dodgers 4, Braves 3
Oct. 7, 2014, Game 4 of National League Division Series at St. Louis
This start followed perhaps the most befuddling of Kershaw’s career, the Game 1 effort in which he cruised into the seventh with a 6-2 lead and then imploded, giving up Matt Carpenter’s game-changing double that pushed the Cardinals into the lead on a night Kershaw was charged with eight runs. Yet four days later, he tried to keep the season alive in St. Louis – and nearly did. Through six innings, he had allowed just one hit, and the Dodgers – trailing two games to one – led 2-0. Kershaw will think of the seventh as an inning he could have easily survived, because Matt Holliday and Jhonny Peralta each hit infield singles that could have been outs. But the decisive blow became Matt Adams’s three-run homer off Kershaw, and the season ended.
Kershaw: 6 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 102 pitches, 66 strikes
Cardinals 3, Dodgers 2
Oct. 13, 2015, Game 4 of National League Division Series at the New York Mets
Kershaw opened this series with unusually shaky control. He gave up an early homer to Daniel Murphy, but then uncharacteristically walked the bases loaded in the seventh, leading to his exit. Pedro Baez then allowed David Wright’s two-run single that gave the Mets a 3-1 victory. Back at Citi Field trailing two games to one, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly gave Kershaw the ball again on short rest, again trying to save the season. He was excellent. He again allowed a solo homer to Murphy, but Gonzalez and Justin Turner drove in three runs in the third, and Kershaw would need nothing else, forcing a fifth game back in Los Angeles (in which Jacob deGrom beat Zack Greinke to allow the Mets to advance). Kershaw’s ERA in the three postseason starts on short rest: 1.89.
Kershaw: 7 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 8 K, 94 pitches, 62 strikes
Dodgers 3, Mets 1