The Los Angeles Dodgers announced that they’re going with the four-man rotation in the National League Division Series, against the Atlanta Braves. “Pitching wins in the postseason,” is a phrase that you’ll frequently hear every October, which has been true for the most part.
The four-man rotation of Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-Jin Ryu and Ricky Nolasco is arguably the best of the bunch headed into the 2013 postseason. Any rotation featuring Kershaw and Greinke would be tough to beat in any series. The Dodgers don’t plan on using a three-man rotation, even if they were to go down 2-1 in this best of five series.
Nolasco ended the regular season on a horrendous note, after going 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA in August. In the month of September, he finished with a 2-2 record and 6.66 ERA. It’s unclear which Nolasco will show up in the postseason and the Dodgers can’t afford to find that out the hard way.
Kershaw has never pitched on three days’ rest in his career, but that’s true for all pitchers until they end up doing it.
The Dodgers 25-year-old southpaw is invaluable and is arguably the best pitcher on the planet. Kershaw just captured his third consecutive ERA title (1.83), punched out 200-plus batters for the fourth consecutive season, and is the favorite to win his second CY Young Award in three years. You can’t convince anyone that any other pitcher belongs on the mound in an elimination game. (Kanye West is even capable of making the right decision on this one).
The three-man rotation should also be considered in Game 4 even if the Dodgers hold a 2-1 series lead over Atlanta. The Braves finished the 2013 regular season with the best home record in all of baseball; 56-25. So, Los Angeles should want to avoid going back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5 of the series.
Throwing Kershaw on three days’ rest makes sense here, too. A win would avoid the long trip from Los Angeles to Atlanta to play that elimination game and would save Greinke for Game 1 of the next series. A loss would still have Greinke pitching in that elimination game in Atlanta, but would push both aces back in the championship series.
The postseason isn’t guaranteed every year, just ask the Washington Nationals. The Dodgers have two of the top pitchers in baseball and shouldn’t hesitate to use them. Pitching on three days’ rest was never a topic of discussion decades ago, it was just expected. Nowadays, it’s a rare feat. However, it’s still done when winning is the priority; Curt Schilling did it twice during the Arizona Diamondbacks 2001 World Series; Josh Beckett did it during the 2003 Florida Marlins World Series; and CC Sabathia hasn’t been afraid to take the ball when needed over the last couple of years.
If the Dodgers stick with the four-man rotation in this series, so be it, but Kershaw and Greinke are there for a reason.