LOS ANGELES — Needing a win to stave off elimination, the Los Angeles Dodgers are giving the ball to ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest Tuesday to face the Washington Nationals in Game 4 of their NL Division Series.
The Dodgers lost 8-3 Monday and trail 2-1 in the best-of-five matchup.
Kershaw won Game 1 last Friday, although the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner allowed three runs and eight hits while throwing 101 pitches over five innings.
Still, rookie manager Dave Roberts was undeterred.
“One, Clayton gives us the best chance to win, and number two, he gives us the best chance to go deeper into a game,” Roberts said before the game.
Kershaw said once the series began that he wanted to pitch Game 4, according to Roberts.
“He wasn’t as sharp as I had seen him, but he’s still Clayton Kershaw,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said of Kershaw’s Game 1 performance. “He kept them in the game, whether he was sharp or not. He’s one of the best around, if not the best.”
The left-hander has pitched on short rest in each of the previous three years. Kershaw is 1-1 with a 1.89 ERA in that span, striking out 23 and walking four.
“Clayton, he is an outlier in all of major league baseball,” Roberts said. “We feel very comfortable and confident with him going on short rest, and I think, so far as the arm usage, 100 percent. There was a lot of conversations with the docs and the trainers as far as the back, and also obviously talking to Clayton, most importantly, that’s not an issue.”
Kershaw missed 2½ months with a mildly herniated disk in his back before returning in September.
Rookie left-hander Julio Urias had been the projected starter for Game 4. Instead, he will be available out of the bullpen. The Dodgers used all seven of their relievers on the NLDS roster in Monday’s loss, including closer Kenley Jansen, who gave up four runs in the ninth inning.
If the Dodgers force a deciding Game 5 in Washington on Thursday, Urias or left-hander Rich Hill are possibilities to start.
The Nationals will start right-hander Joe Ross in Game 4.