2019 NLDS: Clayton Kershaw ‘Ready To Go’ Out Of Dodgers Bullpen In Game 5

When the Los Angeles Dodgers were deciding on their starting rotation for the 2019 National League Division Series, manager Dave Roberts said home and road splits were taken into account but not a deciding factor.

That was supported by the club handing the ball to Walker Buehler in Game 1, then following him with Clayton Kershaw the next night, and thus bumping Hyun-Jin Ryu back to Game 3. Of the three, Ryu had been the most dominant at Dodger Stadium.

“We just felt that with Walker getting an opportunity to pitch the first game, also potentially a Game 5 gives us the best chance to win, regardless of the opponent,” Roberts explained before Game 1.

An underlying benefit to starting Kershaw in Game 2 was he would later be available out of the bullpen if the NLDS went beyond three games. With the Dodgers and Washington Nationals having played to a winner-take-all scenario, that’s manifested.

Kershaw was in the bullpen at Nationals Park for Game 4 and after he settled for a light throwing session during the ninth inning, vowed he’s prepared for any role on Wednesday, as seen on SportsNet LA:

“Yeah, all hands on deck, for sure. I’ll be ready to go.”

Roberts said Kershaw is a candidate to “piggyback” Buehler, particularly if the right-hander fails to provide length in his Game 5 start. “It’s kind of whatever is called for,” Roberts added.

“So it’s more of just there could be potential length with Clayton, whatever that might be. I’m going to have a hard time taking the ball out of Walker’s hand. But knowing you’ve got Clayton behind him and a slew of other pitchers is more my thought.”

After exclusively pitching as a starter during postseason appearances from 2013-15, Kershaw memorably pitched out of the bullpen against the Nationals in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS. That was after starting Game 4 on three days’ rest; the relief appearance then came two days later.

Although Kershaw has been on board with pitching whenever asked this postseason, he was quick to note there wouldn’t necessarily be a repeat of 2016. “I hope it’s not that situation, because I was (Games) 1, 4 and 5, so I don’t envision that happening,” he said last week.

“You know how you feel coming out of starts. And this season I felt great the whole year after those first couple weeks, so I don’t think I’ll have any problem bouncing back.”