If you go to the well too many times, eventually it will dry up.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hopes that won’t be the case with ace Clayton Kershaw, because like Kershaw’s start in Game 4 of the NLDS and especially his surprising relief appearance in Game 5, Roberts needs him to be at his best on Sunday night.
No, the Dodgers season isn’t on the line. But let’s be realistic. Another loss to this Chicago Cubs team with no Kershaw to fall back on again until Game 5, or maybe more realistically Game 6, would put them in a difficult position. We might go as far as to say an impossible position, given how poorly the rest of Roberts’ starting rotation has performed.
Simply put, it’s as close to a must-win as you’ll find in Game 2 of a seven-game series.
The good news is Kershaw reported no aches or pains on Saturday. In fact, he says he’ll be turned loose without restrictions, meaning he’ll be out there as long as Roberts’ believes he’s effective. On the downside, the Cubs present a unique challenge for any pitcher, even Kershaw. He made two starts again them last season, allowing four runs (on three homers) over 15 innings. He didn’t face them this year though, and everyone knows by now they’re an entirely different animal.
For baseball fans in general, it sets up an intriguing matchup that will be fun to watch unfold. Will the Cubs be aggressive against Kershaw early in the count, or will they make him work? Will Kershaw attack a little more, hoping to work deeper in the game, or will he try to avoid as much contact as possible?
We don’t think about this often either, but the home-plate umpire may provide some comfort for Kershaw as well. As FOX Sports Jon Morosi notes, he’s enjoyed great success with Eric Cooper, tonight’s scheduled strike-caller, behind the plate.
Clayton Kershaw has permitted a slash line of .145/.185/.242 over 66 plate appearances with Eric Cooper calling balls and strikes.
— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) October 16, 2016
Keep in mind that the Cubs are countering with Kyle Hendricks. You know, the nearly forgotten starter who developed into a Cy Young award candidate this season. That’s how incredibly, almost unfairly deep the Cubs are. If he’s on his game, it puts even more pressure on Kershaw to be lights out.
The more you think about it, the more you realize just how special Kershaw might have to be to get a win for Los Angeles on Sunday night. What’s most exciting though is knowing how capable he is of meeting or exceeding those requirements.
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