2016 Dodgers’ fate lies with Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill and Kenley Jansen

Well, that was utterly disappointing. The worst part is, it didn’t feel like the Dodgers had a legit look at the game because Jon Lester was on last night despite all the silly things the Dodgers were doing on the basepaths. The only time I felt really hopeful was when Yasiel Puig made that running catch in right in the fifth. I had visions of the Dodgers scoring a 2-3 runs in the next two innings and not looking back. Unfortunately, when Addison Russell homered, all that hope went away. They had to scratch and claw so hard for that first run that a two-run lead felt a lot more daunting than it actually was.

Now, we turn to Game 6 and Clayton Kershaw. We’ve been here before with Kershaw. Let me take you back to 2013. I wrote this about him on my stupid blog.

“This is it. This is Clayton Kershaw’s most important start of his career, and it couldn’t come at a better time for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers took two-of-three from the Cardinals in Los Angeles, but because they failed to steal one of the first two games of the National League Championship Series, Kershaw is next on the list of pitchers to help the Dodgers stave off elimination.

Kershaw threw six brilliant innings in St. Louis on Saturday (6 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 5 K, 72 pitches) only to be lifted for a pinch-hitter in the top of the 7th inning because Nick Punto had gotten on base with two outs. With the Dodgers trailing 1-0 at the time (and ultimately the final score), it was the right move.

(sic)

This is it, Clayton. This is your time to shine.

Well, Kershaw’s been shining brightly ever since the Dodgers drafted him, so it’s to be expected. The Dodgers will get a great performance out of him, and he will give the Dodgers the best chance to win.”

First of all, ugh, what a bad writer. Second, we all know what happened in that fateful Game 6.

But this is different for Kershaw. He has exorcised his postseason demons multiple times in the last couple weeks — Game 4 of the NLDS, Game 5 of the NLDS and Game 2 of the NLCS. This is just another opportunity for Kershaw to cement his postseason legacy, and he’s pitching on an extra day of rest, believe it or not. That’s rare for an ace in the postseason.

The situations and circumstances are not dissimilar. The Dodgers’ season is on the line, on the road, against the team that had the most wins in the regular season. The only difference is the Dodgers once held an advantage in this series and have shot themselves in the foot multiple times, giving the best team in baseball extra opportunities usually doesn’t lead to success.

This is a different Kershaw. This is an even better Kershaw. If the Dodgers are going to go to the World Series, they’re going to have to win two games in the hostile environment that will be Wrigley Field. Kershaw shut out the Cubs for seven innings on Sunday night, and he’s going to have to pitch similarly — or better — for the Dodgers to have a chance. Kyle Hendricks got through six innings and gave up just a solo home run to Adrian Gonzalez during this last matchup, so it isn’t like they have a track record of roughing up the Cubs’ right-hander.

Assuming Kershaw comes through, the series is setting up to go seven games. It’d be the closest the Dodgers have been to a World Series berth since 1988, but it could also be devastating if the worst happens to the Dodgers in Game 7. Rich Hill is going to have to be Game 3 Rich Hill if Kershaw gets by the Cubs in Game 6. Regardless, the Dodgers are set up as well as they can be to take two games on the road. Their two-best starters are going and their best reliever is fully rested since he hasn’t pitched since Tuesday.

It would not surprise me at all to see three Dodger pitchers in the next two games: Kershaw, Hill and Kenley Jansen. There’s almost no reason for any other guy to throw a pitch in the next two games, and if there is then something may have gone wrong. Joe Blanton is gassed, Ross Stripling and Pedro Baez have been ineffective and Luis Avilan frightens me. Grant Dayton might be the only guy who gets the call in Games 6 and/or 7, and yes, I’m intentionally leaving out Josh Fields and Alex Wood, because it feels like if they pitch, the game has already been decided.

Two wins from the Series. At least one game remaining in the 2016 season with the best pitcher on the planet set to go. Baseball is life/pain.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.