Manager Dave Roberts of the Los Angeles Dodgers dismissed any significance of not handing the ball to his ace Clayton Kershaw for the opening game of the National Division Series against the Atlanta Braves on Thursday.
Roberts cited strategy in his decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu over Kershaw on Thursday saying he wanted to give both pitchers an equal amount of rest. Roberts called Game 1 important, but added that Game 2 is equally important.
Ryu will start Thursday when the Dodgers open the best-of-five series in Atlanta. This will be the first time since 2009 that Kershaw has not started a playoff run for the Dodgers.
Roberts said prior to the team’s workout on Wednesday that the decision came down to putting both pitchers in the best possible position to be successful.
Roberts added that Kershaw wanted and expected to start Game 1, but after the two talked and Roberts explained his strategy Kershaw accepted the decision and said he would be ready for Game 2.
Kershaw could be in line to pitch a potential Game 5 winner take all if the series goes that far on October 10 and that would coincide with the normal four days rest for the lefthander. However, Roberts would not commit to anything beyond Game 3 when Walker Buehler is scheduled to start on the mound for the Dodgers.
This season Kershaw has had back problems for the third consecutive year, but finished the season with an ERA of 2.73 and pitched 161 1/3 innings. However, in his final two starts of the regular season, Kershaw gave up eight runs over 11 innings.
Ryu was on the disabled list for over three months this season with a groin injury. However, he finished the season with a 1.97 ERA over 82 1/3 innings and in five starts during September posted an ERA of just 1.50.
Ryu told reporters through his interpreter that Kershaw told him he would be starting Game 1. The lefthander added that he was nervous but hoped to channel his nervousness into a successful outing on Thursday.
Last season Kershaw and closer Kenley Jansen pitched close to 37% of the 135 2/3 innings the Dodgers pitching staff threw during the 2017 playoffs, but Roberts said both pitchers would not see the same about of workload this playoff season.