NEW YORK -- When Don Mattingly was asked who his starter was for Game 4 of the Dodgers' National League Division Series against the Mets at Citi Field on Tuesday night and for an explanation regarding the decision, the manager was pretty succinct.
"[Clayton] Kershaw," he said. "Do you have to explain that one?"
Well, he is pitching on three days' rest in the NLDS for the third postseason in a row with decidedly mixed results. Now that the Dodgers are down 2-1 in the best-of-five series after Monday night's 13-7 loss, Kershaw will have a chance to redeem himself Tuesday night (8 p.m. ET, TBS).
"He's pretty good," Mattingly said. "I mean, we just feel like he's that guy, no matter if we're down 2-1 or up 2-1, we feel like he's the right guy."
Thus, Mattingly has his starting pitching set up just the way he wants it. After Kershaw, he'll have Zack Greinke to pitch Game 5 on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium on normal rest, if the final game is necessary to decide the series.
"Yeah, I appreciate the confidence that Donnie has, the confidence in me to do it," Kershaw said. "It's a good feeling to know your manager wants you out there, makes you want to prove him right, for sure."
The option for Mattingly instead of Kershaw on Tuesday night would have been Alex Wood, obtained from Atlanta at the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. Wood pitched two innings in relief of Brett Anderson on Monday night and gave up four runs on four hits.
Asked what would be his preference, Mets manager Terry Collins responded to a sea of laughter.
"Would I have any preference? Yeah, I got a preference," Collins said. "Believe me, this is no slap at Alex Wood. He's a fine pitcher, but I don't want that other monster on the mound, I can tell you that. Again, no disrespect, because [Wood's] a good pitcher, but that other guy -- I've been around him way too much. I know exactly what he can do."
Collins was a Minor League coordinator in the Dodgers organization as Kershaw came up through the system. And Kershaw said he felt bad about inadvertently misleading Collins on the field prior to the game
"I saw T.C. out on the field a second ago," Kershaw said. "And I've known T.C. a long time. And he asked me what the plan was and I told him I didn't know yet and then Donnie walks in like 10 minutes later and tells me I'm pitching. So he probably thinks I was lying to him. So yeah, it was definitely a good feeling, you know, something that you want to prove everybody right."
The Mets already have seen Kershaw once, obviously, in this postseason. Jacob deGrom got the best of him in Game 1 this past Friday night at Dodger Stadium in a 3-1 victory.
Kershaw pitched fine, but just not well enough to win, allowing three runs on four hits and striking out 11. He was lifted after walking the bases loaded with two out in the seventh inning. David Wright plated the winning runs off reliever Pedro Baez.
There's no guarantee that Kershaw will prevail in Game 4, either. He's riding a five-game postseason losing streak that dates back to Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS against Atlanta.
In that one, Kershaw pitched seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball and struck out 12 in a 6-1 victory.
Later in that series, Mattingly began the pattern of pitching Kershaw on three days' rest in the first round. Leading that series 2-1, Kershaw matched Braves right-hander Freddy Garcia for six innings as both starters left with the score tied, 2-2.
The Dodgers actually fell behind in that game, but Juan Uribe saved the Kershaw decision with a two-run homer in the eighth inning off David Carpenter to win the game and the series.
The short-shifting of Kershaw had a deleterious effect as he lost both Games 2 and 6 to the Cardinals in the NL Championship Series. In the finale, Kershaw lasted four innings, giving up seven earned runs on 10 hits in a 9-0 loss.
The streak against the Cardinals lasted through last year's NLDS when Mattingly again pitched him on three days' rest and Kershaw lost Games 1 and 4 as the Cardinals scored 11 runs against him, all in the seventh inning of both games. Like this year, Kershaw pitched the final game on the road with the Dodgers trailing, 2-1.
"Yeah, I think I did fine," Kershaw said about pitching on short rest the last two postseasons. "I mean, I think I did OK. Last year I did OK until the [seventh] inning. So you know, [I'll just] try not to do that again, I guess."