Even though he will start on three days' rest and appeared out of gas the last time he did pitch, Clayton Kershaw said he is more than strong enough to work NLDS Game 4 Tuesday night at Citi Field. For the Dodgers' sake, he had better be, because the weight of their season depends on it.
A good performance by Kershaw might be all that stands between his club and a long winter, considering the Dodgers were blown out by the Mets, 13-7, in Game 3 Monday night and are one loss from elimination.
But it wasn't desperation that convinced Don Mattingly to choose his ace for Game 4. The manager announced his decision long before Game 3 game began.
"Kershaw. Do you have to explain that one?" Mattingly said, alluding to the lefthander's status as one of the best pitchers in the sport.
A few minutes earlier, Kershaw had crossed paths at Citi Field with Mets manager Terry Collins and said he didn't know his status for Tuesday night -- which he didn't. "So he probably thinks I'm lying to him," Kershaw said of Collins, whom he knows from their time together in the Dodgers minor-league system.
Statistics and history don't lie, and they suggest that Collins should not be upset that Kershaw will work on short rest. Kershaw is 1-6 lifetime in the postseason, including a loss to the Mets in Game 1 Friday night. Still, Collins trusts his eyes more than statistics and history. When he was asked during his own pregame news conference if he had a preference between Kershaw and Alex Wood, Collins said, "Yeah, I've got a preference. Believe me, this is no slap at Alex Wood. He's a fine pitcher. But I don't want that other monster on the mound."
But Kershaw it will be, regardless of his October struggles. "I appreciate the confidence that Donnie has, the confidence in me to do it," he said. "As far as being prepared, being ready for it, I'll be fine."
This series has taken on more emotional fuel since he appeared in it, given the furor and delayed suspension that followed the play in which Chase Utley broke Ruben Tejada's right leg.
"I feel like MLB got, you know, maybe a little bit bullied into suspending him," Kershaw said. "We all feel bad for what happened to Ruben. With that said, there's a lot of people that have a lot of different opinions about it that probably shouldn't because they're not middle infielders and they have no idea what they're talking about."
He sounded feisty and added that he has energy to burn: "I'll never admit that I'm tired."