Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw is eager to help the team close out its National… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
Manager Don Mattingly is a circling shark, smelling blood and ready for the kill.
Mattingly felt the best way to kill off the Atlanta Braves now was to go with his best. And his best, Clayton Kershaw, wanted the kill.
So on three days rest for the first time in his career, Kershaw will start Game 4 on Monday and try to eliminate the Braves at Dodger Stadium in their National League Division Series.
Mattingly said they had the idea of coming back with Kershaw in Game 4 long before the playoffs began and just wanted to make sure he was ready and willing.
“We talked to him last night and basically say, `Hey, Clay, you've got to be 100% sure. We're not going to take any chances with your career,’ ” Mattingly said. “That is the last thing we'd do.
“And he says all the work I do, everything I go through every start, it's for this kind of game. So he was the one basically saying, 'This is why I work so hard. This is the game I want.'”
It’s now a game the Dodgers had better win. If the Dodgers lose, they will have to start Zack Greinke in a decisive Game 5 Wednesday in Atlanta. Which means unless they want to start Kershaw on short rest in consecutive starts, should they win it in five, they would have to start the National League Championship Series with either passed-over Ricky Nolasco or Hyun-Jin Ryu, who gave up four runs (corrected) in three innings Sunday.
But Mattingly said having both Kershaw and Greinke helped drive their decision.
“It's like you've got two aces,” he said. “Without Zack being there, I don't think you make the same decision.
“I think I'd question myself a lot more when you have two aces and if you don't play them both. We've got two chances if something doesn't work out the way we want it to tonight, then we're sitting with an ace in Game 5.”
Mattingly said it was a group decision and the focus is less on the effect starting Kershaw now will have on his potential NLCS rotation and more on ending the current series right now.
“It's about winning today,” Mattingly said. “Obviously, we know what it does if we're able to take care of our business tonight. This is not a time to look ahead. This is a time to take care of your business in one game.”