The Dodgers’ Last Stand

Prior to yesterday’s National League Division Series game in St. Louis, former Cardinals catcher and long-time TV analyst TIm McCarver threw out the first ball, with former St. Louis pitching great and Hall-of-Famer Bob Gibson serving as his catcher. In 1964, fifty years ago, the Cardinals won the World Series over the yankees, behind the pitching of Gibson, Ray Sadecki, and Curt Simmons. The three won 19, 20 and 18 games, respectively, and they started 102 of the teams 162 games, completing 36 of them. This season, you needed to add the complete game totals of the NL’s top 12 leaders in complete games to get to 36. Gibson alone went on to complete 20 or more games in seven of his next eight seasons, twice reaching a high of 28 in a season. In those days, as I have written about many times, starting pitchers were in four-man rotations pitching every fourth day, and they were still supposed to complete their starts. Top starters like Gibson would pitch 280 to 320 innings each season, and they went on, year after year, doing so. Gibson pitched until he was 39, threw 3,884 innings over his career, making 482 starts and completing 255 of them. He averaged 17 complete games per season.

Clayton Kershaw has now started 209 regular season games in his career, and has competed 17 of them, total.

In last year's playoffs, Kershaw made his first-ever start on what today is said to be "short rest", that is, on three days rest rather than the four to which today's starters have become accustomed. While in that short-rest start Kershaw was still effective, but he only pitched six innings, giving up two runs, both unearned. He then started on "normal rest" five days later, and again was effective, though he lost, 1-0, to the Cardinals. But, that was followed a few days later by his final start of last year's post season, in which he was rocked for seven runs, all
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earned, in four innings pitched. Had the short rest taken its toll? Will it again this post season?

With the Dodgers on the brink of elimination, down two games to one again to St. Louis, the empty uniform non manager feels that he has no choice but to bypass Dan Haren and start Kershaw today, against well-rested Shelby Miller, who despite his 15-9 regular season record a year ago, was the odd man out in 2013, making no playoff starts for S. Louis.

Mattingly made his decision to start Kershaw today even before last night’s loss, so had he used someone other than Scott Elbert in relief in the seventh inning of a tie game and had that pitcher been someone who had pitched more than 4-1/3 2014 innings after coming back from elbow surgery, and had that pitcher not given up a seventh-inning double to


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Yadier Molina and a seventh-inning two-run home run to Kelton Wong, then while Kershaw would still be pitching today, the pressure of elimination would not be there, somewhat lessening the impact of his last two disastrous post season appearances (15 earned runs over 10-2/3 innings pitched).

In another move from mattingly, he has now
announced the benching of Yasiel Puig, and said that Andre Ethier will start today in center field. Puig started the post season going two-for four in game one, but then, before his sixth-inning triple las night, proceeded to strike out seven straight at bats.

The Dodgers return to LA after today’s game. Will it be to prepare for a final fifth game against the Cardinals, or will it be to clean out their lockers and head home until next spring?

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