After scratching scheduled Game 4 starter Ricky Nolasco earlier today in favor of Clayton Kershaw, Dodger manager Don Mattingly explained the decision-making process.
“The scenario was something that we talked about before the season even ended,” Mattingly said in a pregame meeting with reporters. “Once we knew we were in (the NLDS) and had ourselves set up, seeing the schedule for the playoffs, we looked at different scenarios for Game 4 and what they could be.”
Mattingly said he discussed the decision with his coaches and General Manager Ned Colletti. Before they could present the idea to Kershaw, the ace beat them to the punch.
“After Game 1, he was barking right after the game that he was ready for Game 4,” Mattingly said. “We were like ‘No, no, no, no, no. Let’s see where you’re at tomorrow. Let’s see how you’re doing.’ Then really that process was just a matter of waiting things out to see if he kind of responded to everything and how he was feeling, and then really making sure one last time that he was a hundred percent with it.”
Relegating Nolasco to a possible long relief role for tonight and Game 5 would have seemed implausible only a month ago.
After being acquired Miami on July 7, Nolasco found immediate success, winning eight of his first nine decisions, and lowering his ERA from 3.85 to 3.14 in the process.
In his next start on September 14th, Nolasco gave up a season-high seven runs, retiring only four batters. For the rest of the regular season, Nolasco scuffled. Over his final four starts he lasted only 13 innings and surrendered 19 runs on 25 hits.
Mattingly maintained the decision was more about Kershaw’s success than Nolasco’s poor outings down the stretch.
“I don’t think this has anything to do with Ricky,” Mattingly explained. “It’s really more to do with Clayton and Zack. When we told Ricky last night, he goes, ‘I understand. You've got the best guy in the game out there tonight.’ “
The Dodger skipper dismissed talk of saving Kershaw for Game 1 of the league championship series.
“It’s about winning today,” he said. “Obviously we know what it does if we’re able to take care of our business tonight.”
The luxury of having Zack Greinke waiting in the wings to start Game 5 on full rest made the decision easier for the team.
“It’s like you've got two aces,” Mattingly said. “Without Zack being there, I don’t think you make the same decision.”
Some feel the move to start Kershaw smacks of desperation, suggesting Mattingly feels his future is tied to the team’s performance in the series.
“No, it’s nothing to do with my future,” Mattingly insisted, shaking his head. “It’s just winning. Period. We’re trying to win a game today. We’re trying to put ourselves in the best position to win a game today.”
Hit the subscribe button just below the headline of this story to receive Dodger updates. Visit Dodgers Examiner page on Facebook to offer your opinions and talk baseball. While you’re there, hit the “Like” button so you can receive updates. Follow Dodger baseball on Twitter. As always, Jim encourages your email comments.