LOS ANGELES -- With the Dodgers trailing the Nationals, 2-1, in the best-of-five National League Division Series, manager Dave Roberts has elected to start left-hander Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 this afternoon (5 p.m. ET/2 PT on FS1).The Dodgers chose Kershaw over 20-year-old rookie Julio Urías, and
LOS ANGELES -- With the Dodgers trailing the Nationals, 2-1, in the best-of-five National League Division Series, manager Dave Roberts has elected to start left-hander Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 this afternoon (5 p.m. ET/2 PT on FS1).
The Dodgers chose Kershaw over 20-year-old rookie Julio Urías, and their beleaguered bullpen played a role in the decision. Kershaw will start opposite right-hander Joe Ross, who was chosen to start by Nationals manager Dusty Baker.
Urias is likely but not certain to start a potential Game 5, and the Dodgers would have a fresh relief corps behind him after Wednesday's scheduled off-day. They'd also have left-hander Rich Hill -- who started Sunday -- as an option to start or to follow Urias.
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While many pitchers in recent years have struggled on three days' rest, Kershaw has proven himself more than capable of handling the task. In each of the past three postseasons, Kershaw has gotten the ball for Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest. He owns a 1.89 ERA in those starts -- including seven innings of one-run ball against the Mets last year in the same situation.
"Clayton, he is an outlier in all of Major League Baseball," Roberts said. "We feel very comfortable and confident with him going on short rest, and so far as the arm usage, [he's] 100 percent. ... Knowing Clayton's history, he's done it -- and there's really no unknown -- and pitched well in that spot. That just gave us more assurance."
Meanwhile, the potential decision to move Urias to Game 5 means he would be squaring off against Nationals ace Max Scherzer. Sending a rookie to the hill against an NL Cy Young Award favorite on the road in a potential winner-take-all game is certainly a daunting scenario.
But Urias would have the support of a rested relief corps, plus Hill. The Dodgers used every one of their relievers in Monday's 8-3 loss to the Nationals, and Kershaw is a better bet to give them length today.
"With Clayton, we had complete certainty from the training staff, the doctors that health wasn't a factor," Roberts said. "Obviously it's a game we need to win, where, one, Clayton gives us the best chance to win, and number two, he gives us the best chance to go deeper into a game."
That said, length from a pitcher on short rest is rare in today's game. Since 2000, only three other hurlers -- Josh Beckett, CC Sabathia and Hiroki Kuroda -- have thrown more than 100 pitches in consecutive postseason starts on short rest. Kershaw did so in 2014 against the Cardinals and pitched six scoreless innings before he came undone in a three-run seventh.
Kershaw threw 101 pitches in his Game 1 start, allowing three runs over five unsteady frames.
As for Hill, he has been battling blisters on his pitching hand, meaning the Dodgers wouldn't start him on short rest. But they feel he'll be a solid option to work a few innings out of the bullpen.
Given that Urias -- who hasn't pitched yet this series -- is available out of the bullpen, Roberts was noncommittal for a Game 5 starter.
"It's still up in the air," Roberts said. "I think I'm going to manage this game, again, all hands on deck, and Julio is a big part of today, as far as his rest and how we feel against the Nationals, their offense.
"After today, we'll assess. I think that, regardless of if Julio isn't used, we have Julio or Rich. Those are two good options for us."
AJ Cassavell is in his sixth season as a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.