Kershaw starts WS Gm. 1; Buehler in Gm. 3

October 20th, 2020

Three-time National League Cy Young Award winner will start Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday against the Rays, and right-hander will start Game 3 on Friday, the Dodgers announced on Monday. A starter for Game 2 hasn't been announced.

In the first three rounds of this postseason, Buehler started Game 1. But he just pitched on Saturday in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series vs. the Braves, a Dodgers victory. Kershaw will be pitching on normal rest after throwing five-plus innings and allowing four runs in Los Angeles' NLCS Game 4 loss last Thursday.

“The timing of things, how we used our starters, but also who [Kershaw] is and what he’s done,” manager Dave Roberts said of the alignment. “Obviously, it’s the biggest of no-brainers to have him start Game 1. Something he’s done before just makes us feel that much better about it.”

In Game 3 of the World Series, Buehler will be pitching on five days' rest after he delivered six scoreless innings in that must-win Game 6 of the NLCS.

With this alignment, Kershaw is set up to start Game 5 and Buehler Game 7 if the series goes that long. And with the No. 1 (Dodgers) and No. 2 (Rays) seeds in the tournament, it might.

“They’ve got a great team,” Kershaw said of the Rays. “The pitching staff gets talked about a lot, but they’ve got a lot of guys on the offensive side that can make you pay if you make mistakes. [Randy] Arozarena, the way he’s going now, swinging the bat real well. Try to limit him as much as you can. They got a lot of guys they try to play the platoon to their advantage, a lot of guys in and out, right and left. They’ve got a great team.”

The Dodgers have lost each of Kershaw’s past three starts in the World Series. His lone win in the Fall Classic was in Game 1 against the Astros in 2017, when he struck out 11 in seven innings of one-run ball. In 10 postseason Game 1 outings, he’s 4-5 with a 5.86 ERA.

“Every year is different,” Kershaw said. “Just trying to learn the best you can, but every year is different and every team is different. The Rays are a different team than the Astros and Red Sox. I’m going to prepare like I always do, be as ready as I can be and excited about another opportunity to get it done.”

Kershaw was asked if he wished the Astros had beaten the Rays to set up a rematch of the 2017 World Series against the team that was disciplined for stealing signs that season.

“You can’t think like that,” Kershaw said. “The Rays are a very formidable opponent and winning the World Series is going to be special no matter who you play. 2017 is over, we can’t go back and worry about that. I’ll just say, this World Series against the Rays is what we’re prepared for now.”

In this pandemic year, when even getting a season in was uncertain, Kershaw said he feels a special sense of gratitude to be where he is now.

“I was throwing [simulated] games in May and June in Dallas, thinking if we’d play a season or if this would be a wasted year in everybody’s career, if this was going to be a wasted year for the Dodgers with the team we had,” Kershaw said. “So yeah, to be able to be here now and be four wins away from winning a World Series I think is a testament to a lot of people to make this season happen, to the players and Major League Baseball to get to this point. I’m super thankful for that, I really am, that we’re getting this opportunity, for sure.

“Does winning a World Series this year compare to a normal season? I think the answer is yes. For what we’ve been going through in the postseason, in some aspects [it's] harder with an extra round and a little more of a crapshoot with 16 teams making the tournament, that what started in October was a tough go. To be able to win a World Series after all of this will be just as special as any other one, for sure.”

Kershaw said he feels fine after having his Game 2 NLCS start pushed back two days because of back spasms. When he started in Game 4 instead, three of his four earned runs scored in a hard-luck sixth inning.

With Kershaw going in Game 1 of the World Series (and potentially Game 5 on normal rest) and Buehler in Game 3 (and Game 7, if necessary), the Dodgers could use only four starting pitchers through the best-of-seven set. Unlike the NL Division Series and Championship Series, the Fall Classic has scheduled days off after Games 2 and 5.

Kershaw watched Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS from the bullpen, prepared to be called in for relief. That call didn’t come, but he sensed that the momentum from the Dodgers’ comeback could carry over.

“There’s a different energy down there -- every time the phone rings, somebody can go in, and I was trying to stay ready for that the last two days,” Kershaw said. “The comeback, we do feel pretty good about our momentum and confidence as far as winning games at any point. We feel great about going into a World Series, I know that.”