There’s been a lot of chatter the last few days about the Dodgers‘ decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 of the 2018 NLDS over Clayton Kershaw. So far, that decision has worked out. The Dodgers dominated the Atlanta Braves, 6-0, taking a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
Kershaw will pitch Game 2 Friday night, and the general consensus is that the Dodgers will not rely on their Ace as much this postseason as they have in previous postseasons. The front office said before the NLDS started that they wanted Kershaw to be rested, and they would not be going to him on short rest.
It’s well documented, as well as seared into the hearts of Dodger fans every pitch of Kershaw’s postseason career, from the Matt Adams home run, to the bullpen appearance in the 2106 NLDS, to his dominate World Series Game 1 outing and everything in between.
Most of the postseason runs since 2013 have been placed squarely on the back of Mr. Kershaw, and as we’ve come to find out time and again, he is only one man, with one back that’s been injured by postseason woes and physical maladies both. Last year, the front office thought they had the help they needed to get over that hump in the arm of Yu Darvish, but that fell apart after Darvish failed to deliver in the World Series after supposedly tipping his pitches.
The Dodgers also tried to ride the arms of both Brandon Morrow and Kenley Jansen, and neither of them are close to what they were last year. Morrow signed with the Chicago Cubs, and spent a lot of the year on the DL and wasn’t able to help his team in the Wild Card Series. Jansen has been dealing with his heart ailment, in addition to some pitching issues like his cutter just refusing to cut.
All this to say, that if the Dodgers are going to repeat as NL Champs and finally get that elusive World Series ring, they are going to need much more of a group effort than they have gotten in any other year. They cannot ride one starter’s arm and one bullpen arm. Ryu’s start last night was what they need down the stretch—the starter going deep into the game, so Dave Roberts can have more arms at his disposal to close out the game.
In their last few starts, Rich Hill and Walker Buehler have also been dominant. If they continue this trend, Kershaw has three other legit arms in the rotation with him, and he does not have all that pressure squarely on his shoulders alone.
The offense needs to the do their part, of course, to keep the team in the game and hand-off a lead in the late innings to the bullpen. Manny Machado, for one, needs to get hot for this offense to really take off. Regardless, the starting pitching staff looks stronger than it has in years past, and that can help Kershaw and Los Angeles finally get that ring, no matter where he lines up in the rotation.