ST. LOUIS — The Dodgers have their backs to the wall, and it’s clear Tuesday they aren’t taking any chances with no losses left to give.
Clayton Kershaw will man the bump for the Blue Crew, pitching on short rest for only the second time in his career. The last quick turnaround was in 2013’s NLDS Game 4, where the dominant lefty went six innings and allowed three hits, striking out six and surrendering no earned runs.
The Cardinals will face him having won three postseason match ups in a row, the most recent being a Game 1 come-from-behind victory that saw the Birds tally six hits in eight at bats in the seventh inning.
“It's definitely not easy to swallow, especially when we had such a big lead and we should be up 2-0 right now and all that stuff,” Kershaw said before Game 3. “You can't think about it now.”
With the Cardinals taking a 2-1 lead since that press conference, the 26-year-old will now make the biggest start of his career.
“For me, it's just the start-to-start thing. I try not to look at all the numbers and all the stats, just try to go out and try to win a game for us tomorrow. That's all I really do,” he said. “It's too hard to think about all that stuff. Whether you do good or bad, you get too big a head or too down on yourself. You try to stay as even keel as you possibly can and just prepare for the next one.”
St. Louis seems to have the mojo over Kershaw of late, with their dramatic success prompting national broadcasters to wonder if the two-time Cy Young winner was tipping pitches. Both sides dismissed that notion, but Mike Matheny said his club does feel confident going against the game’s best.
“We've said it before, we've got a lot of respect for him. What he's done this season, you don't turn a blind eye to,” the manager said. “But it gets to the point of this time of the season and you just have to have confidence in yourself and confidence in your teammates. And you have to continue to stay the course and realize that he had his way for the majority of that game the other day.”
Matt Carpenter and Randal Grichuk both had success off Kershaw in Game 1, each tallying a homer and Carpenter the decisive double that knocked the southpaw from the game. For the rookie Grichuk, a taste of success has brought a desire to see the MVP-caliber pitcher again.
“I feel like this team goes about it differently than some. You want to face the best, pretty much. Plain and simple. And he’s one of the best. So we go up there happy to get those ABs and confident,” he said.
The Dodgers also benched Yasiel Puig in favor of Andre Ethier. Puig had a brutal stretch over his last nine at bats, striking out eight times (seven in a row). Despite the defensive upside Puig brings, Don Mattingly said, “we just feel like this gives us the best chance to win today.”
Ethier has a homer and three RBIs against Miller in six at bats, and will bat sixth while manning center field.
1) Matt Carpenter 3B
2) Randal Grichuk RF
3) Matt Holliday LF
4) Jhonny Peralta SS
5) Matt Adams 1B
6) Yadier Molina C
7) Jon Jay CF
8) Kolten Wong 2B
9) Shelby Miller RHP
1) Dee Gordon 2B
2) Carl Crawford LF
3) Adrian Gonzalez 1B
4) Matt Kemp RF
5) Hanley Ramirez SS
6) Andrew Ethier CF
7) Juan Uribe 3B
8) A.J. Ellis C
9) Clayton Kershaw P