Well-rested Dodgers rotation readies for NLCS
Closing out the NLDS in four games gives starters time to prepare for next opponent
LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' rotation will be well rested for the National League Championship Series, good news for a club that arguably has the best starting pitching in baseball.
The Dodgers finished off the NL Division Series against the Braves on Monday in Game 4 thanks to six solid innings from Clayton Kershaw -- pitching on short rest for the first time in his career -- and home runs from Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe.
Monday's victory allowed Los Angeles to take Tuesday off. The Dodgers will play the winner of Wednesday's Game 5 between St. Louis and Pittsburgh. The NLCS begins Friday on TBS, in St. Louis if the Cardinals advance, in L.A. if it's the Pirates.
Zack Greinke likely will get the ball for the Dodgers on Friday. The right-hander was ready to start Wednesday if the NLDS reached a Game 5 in Atlanta. Now, Greinke is available to take the mound in Game 1 of the NLCS on six days' rest.
Greinke posted a 2.63 ERA in the regular season, and the Dodgers were 22-6 when he started. He's certainly not a bad alternative to Kershaw in Game 1.
"It's like you've got two aces," said manager Don Mattingly.
Kershaw was dominant again Monday despite pitching on three days' rest. The left-hander will be available to start Game 2 on Saturday night on normal rest.
"It's a one-month sprint, and I'm looking forward to the next couple games," said Kershaw, who has allowed just three runs -- one earned -- in 13 innings this October.
Hyun-Jin Ryu also figures to benefit from an extended layoff. While some questions about the rookie's health followed the left-hander into his start Sunday in Game 3 of the NLDS, Ryu said afterward he was not injured. Still, Ryu was charged with four runs on six hits in three innings.
If the Dodgers elect to start Ryu in Game 3 of the NLCS on Monday, the South Korean believes he will learn from his mistakes in his first career postseason appearance. Ryu would be pitching on seven days' rest if he gets the ball in Game 3.
"I'll certainly use this as an opportunity to make sure in my next starts these things don't happen again, and I'll just take it as a learning lesson," Ryu said after his rough outing against the Braves.
Ricky Nolasco was listed as the Dodgers' starter Monday before the club chose to go with Kershaw. Nolasco won eight of his first nine decisions after being acquired in a July trade with the Marlins. But the right-hander allowed 17 runs in 12 innings over his final three starts of the regular season. He has not started since Sept. 25, with one inning of relief Sept. 29.
The Dodgers will get to set a new 25-man roster for the NLCS, and there's no guarantee Nolasco will be included.
Edinson Volquez started five games for the Dodgers in September after the Padres released him at the end of August. Volquez was not on the NLDS roster, but he had a 2.38 ERA over his last two outings of the regular season and has been traveling with the club in October.
No matter who the Dodgers include in their rotation for the NLCS, each pitcher will be well rested thanks to Monday's win.
Austin Laymance is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.