By Passing Up On Clayton Kershaw, The Dodgers Passed Up On The NLCS
Jon Durr, USATSI

While Clayton Kershaw played the role of a spectator, the Los Angeles Dodgers fell down three games to two in the best-of-seven NLCS.

Win with your best, lose with your best. No questions asked.

Dave Roberts was rightfully commended for that mentality when he secured the NLDS for the Los Angeles Dodgers, using his closer to put out a fire in the seventh, bridging the gap to the utilization of his ace starting pitcher in the ninth.

The result was picture perfect. Clayton Kershaw’s arms were thrust into the air and LA celebrated in the nation’s capital. Plain and simple, they earned it.

As soon as that mentality is done way with, in any case, common sense is no longer in the equation.

While Roberts certainly deserved praise for his strategy in the previous round, his decision not to start Clayton Kershaw — arguably a top five all-time left-handed pitcher — on three-days rest in a pivotal NLCS Game 5 should not be forgotten.

It is not only a decision that put last night’s outcome in jeopardy, but it was one that put the entire series — which the Dodgers have effectively made an epic clash — in jeopardy. In other words, the decision was made without forthright thinking.

Evidently, the general conception was that Kershaw, the best starting pitcher in major league baseball, would serve as a fail safe.

If the Dodgers lost, he would be on the mound to stop the bleeding and force a decisive Game 7. If the Dodgers won, he could be on the mound to close it out.

What about Game 5? Was the series-changing clash somehow put aside?

By opting for Kenta Maeda, Dave Roberts relinquished quite possibly another dynamite performance — see Game 2 — from his ace which would have created a 1/2 scenario at Wrigley Field rather than a do-or-die. Unfortunately, getting away from his bread and butter as a manager, he thought too far down the line, without even considering a potential seventh game.

Keeping that in mind, another ramification of throwing Kershaw on normal rest is his non-factor in a potential Game 7 — where he would be coming out of the bullpen, MadBum style.

The Dodgers did not only fail to seize the opportunity at hand, but they completely flopped when handed the chance to have their horse log three appearances in a challenging championship series, which was extremely tough to win from the get-go.

Last night, with an opportunity to put another nail in the Cubs’ (extremely large) coffin and move towards accomplishing the unlikely, they shied away from a guy who surrendered a mere three hits over seven tremendous Game 2 frames. They said “no” to a guy with a 126-60 (.677) career record and a 2.37 lifetime ERA. They simply denied a man with three Cy Young awards, an NL MVP, and a presently-growing postseason stature.

Whoever first shouted the phrase “focus on today, today” must be turning in their grave. Dave Roberts did not focus on the “today” or the guaranteed “must-win,” he focused on the hypothetical “must-win.”

Thanks to that strategy, Game 6 is now the definition of a must-win for Los Angeles, a game which will present an extreme challenge in front of a roaring crowd in the Windy City looking to celebrate a pennant for the first time since 1945.

You are tied with a team you should not necessarily be tied with, your once-in-a-generation commodity is available, and you have a crucial clash on your hands in a difficult road environment.

You lose the game, and that all-time great does not throw a pitch. Does something sound wrong here?

Yes, Dave Roberts takes the “L” on this one.