Kershaw keeps 'pen fresh, out until Game 5

Dodgers reiterate ace will not pitch on short rest in NLDS

Kershaw keeps 'pen fresh, out until Game 5

LOS ANGELES -- Earlier this week, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts "set it in stone": Clayton Kershaw -- who had pitched on three days' rest in each of the past four postseasons -- would not be available on short rest in the National League Division Series presented by T-Mobile.

Roberts doubled down on that notion with his actions in Friday night's 9-5 Game 1 victory over the D-backs. With an early six-run lead, the Dodgers' skipper had every opportunity to preserve his ace for a potential appearance in Game 4.

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 6 LAD 9, ARI 5 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 7 LAD 8, ARI 5 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 9 LAD 3, ARI 1 Watch

Instead, Roberts kept Kershaw in for 6 1/3 grueling innings. The left-handed ace allowed four runs on five hits, including four solo home runs -- two of which came from Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis in the seventh.

"No excuses. I gave up too many home runs tonight," said Kershaw, who threw 100 pitches. "I just didn't have much left."

That certainly doesn't sound like a pitcher being preserved for a start on short rest.

"Right now, my preparation is for a potential Game 5, or, hopefully, Game 1 of the next series," Kershaw said. "That's my mindset right now. And until something changes, that's what I'm going with."

We've heard similar responses before, of course.

Kershaw threw 124 pitches in Game 1 of the 2013 NLDS, only to return on short rest for Game 4 against Atlanta. He threw 110 in NLDS Game 1 in '14, then came back for Game 4 against St. Louis, too. Same story against the Mets and Nationals in the NLDS in 2015 and '16.

Kershaw threw more than 100 pitches in all four of his NLDS openers before this season. But evidently this year is different.

"If there's a Game 5, that's when he'll pitch," Roberts reiterated Friday night.

Kershaw doubles up Goldy

Roberts said the difference this time is the trust the organization has put into its next three starters -- Rich Hill, Yu Darvish and Alex Wood. Hill starts Saturday's Game 2 with a chance to give the Dodgers a commanding series lead. And, because of Kershaw's outing, he'll have a fresh bullpen behind him.

Tony Watson threw three pitches. Brandon Morrow, making his playoff debut after 11 big league seasons, then needed only seven pitches to record four outs.

The only 'pen move that qualified as remotely debatable came in the ninth, when Roberts went to closer Kenley Jansen with a five-run lead. The right-hander used 16 pitches to slam the door.

"It was a game that you really want to win, and he's well-rested," Roberts said of Jansen. "We used two of our top guys out of the 'pen [in Watson and Morrow]. In that situation, a guy gets on base, you're going to go to him anyway, so you might as well try to get them early."

Kershaw on win over the D-backs

Kershaw was just the fourth MLB starter this postseason to last into the seventh inning, keeping the bullpen fresh. Meanwhile, Kershaw will be fresh for a potential Game 5 (and no sooner, if Roberts is to be taken at his word). That's a comforting notion in the Dodgers' clubhouse.

"He doesn't have all those awards at his house for nothing," said third baseman Justin Turner, who matched a Dodgers playoff record with five RBIs. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game. On top of that, he's one of the best competitors I've ever played with. So when he takes the ball and he's on the mound, we all feel really good about our chances that night.

"I heard him say he's going to go and get ready and prepare for Game 5 -- and, hopefully, Game 1 of the next series. That would be great."

AJ Cassavell is in his seventh season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.