Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stick to the plan: Dodgers should start Nolasco in Game 4 of the NLDS

Following the Dodgers' 13-6 Game 3 victory, the fellas on "Dodger Talk," were debating whether they'd throw Clayton Kershaw in Game 4 of the National League Division Series. After listening to their reasoning and thinking it over myself... I'm still not 100 percent convinced with my answer.

Gun to my head: I'm going with Ricky Nolasco.

Kershaw threw 124 pitches on Thursday night in a masterful performance in which he didn't have his best stuff for the first half of it. He struck out 12 batters and got stronger as the game went on. He'd be throwing on three days rest -- something he's never done in his professional career.

The closest he's gotten to three days rest is the standard four days rest.

Kershaw on four days rest
2.59 ERA, 1.08 WHIP, 9.2 K/9, 3.05 B/BB

If Kershaw throws on Monday, he won't be available until Game 2 of the National League Championship Series (if the Dodgers make it). That's no slight to Zack Greinke, but Kershaw is the best.

I'm sure Kershaw would be more effective than a Nolasco -- the scheduled Game 4 starter -- pitching on more than full rest, but it also takes him out of the equation for a possible Game 5 in Atlanta. That's huge.

Kershaw is the game's best pitcher, but before three bad starts to end the season, Nolasco was fantastic for the Dodgers. In his first 12 starts, Nolasco posted a 2.07 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, a .213 batting average against and a 7.5 K/9.

Nolasco has poor career numbers against the Braves (6-10, 5.11 ERA) and would be making his first playoff start. But with the Dodgers' offensive outburst in Game 3 and home field advantage.

Nolasco's Dodger Stadium starts (2013)
4-2 W-L (yay wins!)
2.55 ERA
1.13 WHIP
7.6 H/9
0.3 HR/9
2.5 BB/9
7.4 K/9
2.90 K/BB

But the biggest reason the Dodgers shouldn't start Kershaw in Game 4 is the fact the Braves are starting Freddy Garcia. Despite good career numbers against the Dodgers and good numbers in the postseason, Garcia, who turned 37 on Sunday, isn't the pitcher he once was. He threw 27 1/3 good innings for the Braves after coming over from the Orioles, but there's no telling how he'll pitch in an elimination game.

I have more faith in the Dodgers' offense doing something against Garcia than Nolasco pitching well, but I also think there's a good chance Nolasco will have a solid game. If his curveball is there, he's going to be fine.

And if the Dodgers absolutely need Kershaw, an inning or two out of the bullpen probably wouldn't be out of the question. That could still put him in line to start Game 1 of the NLCS. But that would only be under an extreme situation.

Final analysis: Start Nolasco, save Kershaw for Game 5 (or Game 1 of the NLCS).

Photo credits
Nolasco: Not that Bob James, Flickr
Kershaw: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue

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