As Mike said in his thoughts on Game 3, “Godspeed, Clayton. No pressure, but we’re all counting on you.” He’s right. We’re all counting on Clayton Kershaw to give a solid performance on short rest against the Cardinals in less than five hours – no one moreso than Don Mattingly and Ned Colletti.
Kershaw threw against Atlanta in Game 4 of the 2013 NLDS on three day’s rest and was good: 6 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 6 K, 91 pitches, 61 strikes. That’s about all we should expect from him tonight (six innings, 90-plus pitches). A 90-pitch Kershaw is much more effective than a full-start Dan Haren, even if Kershaw kinda-but-not-really struggles against the Cardinals (please throw well to end that narrative). That was the first time Kershaw had ever pitched on three day’s rest in his career.
This is required reading before today’s game, courtesy of Russell Carleton of Baseball Prospectus.
“How un-lucky has Clayton against the Redbirds? When we look at Kershaw’s performance against the Cardinals, we see that his BABIP is quite high at .343. I know that during the postseason everyone likes to pretend that games are won and lost based on magical fairy dust, grit, and character. But frankly, a lot of what drives a baseball game is dumb luck. That’s not comfortable for people to hear, but the sooner that you accept that, the sooner we can have a real conversation about baseball.”
This is different than last year’s Game 6 of the NLCS. The stakes aren’t as high for the Dodgers’ season, seeing as it’s still the first round of the playoffs. But the stakes couldn’t be higher for Mattingly and Colletti.
Chris Jackson dropped a hint on episode 93 of the Dugout Blues podcast, and said he heard whispers that if the Dodgers don’t make it to the World Series this year, there could be wholesale changes coming. This gave me pause when he first said it, but the more I look at it, the more it makes sense.
This ownership group, led by Stan Kasten, did not hand-pick the manager and general manager. Mattingly and Colletti were both holdovers from the Frank McCourt era. If the Dodgers falter today, it could spell the end for these two, and perhaps some other executives. DeJon Watson left as the head of player development to become the senior vice president in Arizona. National crosschecker Roy Clark, a man with a superior eye for talent, left/is leaving to become Atlanta’s head player development guy (wonder why the Dodgers didn’t offer him the position). It’s not unreasonable to think guys like Logan White could also have their jobs at stake with what happens today (or potentially Thursday, next week, etc.).
I’m not saying I’d totally agree with this. I mean, we’ve written a lot over the years about Mattingly and his bunting and Colletti and his confounding transactions, but can the manager and GM of a 94-win team really lose their respective jobs for not making it out of the firs round of the playoffs? If Kasten wants to go in a different direction, you better believe it. It’d definitely please the fan base — that is, until Dusty Baker is hired as manager and someone not named Andrew Friedman is the general manager.
The Dodgers aren’t in a 2-1 hole because of Mattingly’s managing. Some could argue (successfully) that they could be down 2-1 because of Colletti’s failure to upgrade a beleaguered bullpen at both trade deadlines, but even that isn’t the biggest factor. The fact is, the players haven’t performed to the best of their abilities and the Dodgers lost with Kershaw on the hill with a 4-run lead in the seventh inning. There’s also (bad) luck involved, and the fact the Cardinals are a solid team whether you want to believe it or not.
Kershaw is trying to save the Dodgers’ season. He’s opposing Shelby Miller, who hasn’t been anywhere close to as good as he was last season. If the Dodgers don’t win today, odds are it’s because the fellas didn’t perform, not because of Mattingly or Colletti. But, someone would likely have to fall on the proverbial sword, and it’s a fair assumption it’d be one or both of Donnie and Ned.
So, Clayton, no pressure, but you’re not only be pitching for the Dodgers’ season, but also possibly to save the jobs of Mattingly and Colletti.