Clayton Kershaw offered to pitch on short rest again in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series for the Los Angeles Dodgers, but was turned down in favor of starting Game 6 on Saturday against the Cubs in Chicago.
The series was tied 2-all going into Thursday night’s game at Dodger Stadium, where struggling rookie Kenta Maeda took the mound for Los Angeles against Jon Lester.
“My stance is always the same,” Kershaw said. “I always tell them I’ll do whatever they want. I told them I’d pitch today if they wanted me to and pitch Game 6 if they wanted me to.”
The left-hander earned the victory in Game 2 at Wrigley Field, allowing two hits over seven scoreless innings while striking out six and walking one. He’s prepared to face boisterous Cubs fans again.
The Cubs were 57-24 at home this season, their most wins at Wrigley in franchise history.
“Obviously, the fans are pretty excited about their team this year and rightfully so,” Kershaw said. “They’ve been waiting a long time for them to win. Hopefully we can either prolong it one more day or kind of clinch it in Game 6.”
Manager Dave Roberts said after Chicago’s 10-2 win on Wednesday that he had ruled Kershaw out for Game 5 because it wasn’t an elimination game.
“The accumulation of his usage over the last ten days plays a factor in our decision,” Roberts said.
Kershaw is 2-0 with a 3.72 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance this postseason. Overall, the three-time Cy Young Award winner is 4-6 with a 4.39 ERA in 17 career playoff appearances.
When he takes the mound Saturday, it will be on an extra day’s rest.
“It’s kind of nice,” he said. “Haven’t had that in a while, so it’s good. Should be ready to go.”
Kershaw will oppose Kyle Hendricks, whose 2.13 ERA was tops in the majors this season. The right-hander allowed a solo homer in 5 1/3 innings of Game 2, his longest career postseason start. The Cubs lost 1-0.
Kershaw called Hendricks “kind of like the Greg Maddux of this generation.”
“With his ability to sink the ball, cut the ball, and put him in spots where hitters are enticed to swing at it, but you can’t put the barrel on it,” Kershaw said. “He’s really good at mixing speeds, changing it up. He’s a tough guy to go against, for sure.”
The Dodgers relied heavily on Kershaw to advance out of the NL Division Series against Washington.
He picked up his first career save in the decisive Game 5 by retiring the final two batters in the ninth. In Game 4, he struck out 11.