Clayton Kershaw, who did not start Game 1 on Thursday despite being on regular rest, is scheduled to start Game 2 on Friday at Dodger Stadium, one day after Hyun-Jin Ryu set the tone with seven strong innings in a 6-0 victory Thursday night over the Braves.
It remains very early in the 2018 postseason, but the Dodgers’ decision to be less reliant on Kershaw for October glory already seems to be paying dividends.
And even though Kershaw is less overpowering than he has been in the past, with a strikeout total lower than his innings pitched for the first time since 2013, he has been a handful when getting an extra day of rest like he will have Friday.
When the left-hander gets five days of rest or more this season, he has a 2.48 ERA and 9.2 strikeouts per inning. On a regular four days of rest, he has a 3.21 ERA and 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings.
Kershaw (9-5, 2.73 ERA), who said he accepts the Dodgers’ pitching decision, downplayed the concept that he will have extra incentive this postseason because he was not named the Game 1 starter.
“I don’t really need to prove myself to anybody,” Kershaw said. “I think I just … I want my teammates to want me out there. I think that’s the biggest thing. Hyun-Jin has had a great season and he’s pitched really well for us … and I’ll get my turn (Friday).”
Tasked with matching Kershaw pitch for pitch is Braves right-hander Anibal Sanchez (7-6, 2.83), who has given up two earned runs or fewer in six of his last seven starts, including six scoreless innings in his regular-season finale Saturday against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Friday’s outing will be Sanchez’s first in the postseason since 2014 with the Detroit Tigers. In seven postseason appearances, he is 2-4 with a 2.79 ERA.
It is the Dodgers hitters that Sanchez said he is most concerned with facing, not pitching against Kershaw.
“You know what, most of the time I don’t think too much about the pitchers that I’m going to face,” Sanchez said. “I just try to keep my mind on the hitters that I’m going to face against the Dodgers. I think they got a pretty good lineup. It’s no doubt how good Kershaw is and what he’s been doing for his whole career. But at the end, I don’t want to put that impression in my mind.”
In Game 1 of the series, the Dodgers looked similar to what they have been all season. They hit three home runs in Game 1 after a season when they hit a club-record and NL-most 235. Two of the home runs came from left-handed hitters Joc Pederson and Max Muncy.
The Dodgers also led the NL in walks this season and earned eight free passes Thursday.
The Braves outhit the Dodgers 6-5 in Game 1, but were never in the contest. Now Sanchez has to face the Dodgers’ lefty-heavy lineup in Game 2.