LOS ANGELES — During October, the seventh inning is the spot in a haunted house where the machete-wielding zombie jumps out.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw has pitched into the seventh inning in nine of his 15 postseason starts. He has recorded 18 outs in those seventh innings – and been charged with 17 runs, avoiding the machete and putting up a zero only three times.
It’s the kind of history that should make a manager think long and hard about sending Kershaw out for the seventh inning of a playoff game.
“I think to discount it entirely is not something I like to do with information,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who sent Kershaw out for the seventh inning of his Game 1 start in the NL Division Series against the Arizona Diamondbacks last week. Kershaw retired one batter then gave up back-to-back home runs to the softest part of the Diamondbacks’ lineup – the seventh- and eighth-place hitters, Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis.
Roberts said he had an upper limit of 110 pitches in mind for Kershaw going into that start (despite the fact that he hadn’t gone past 97 since mid-July before a lower back strain sent him to the DL for five weeks) and Kershaw had thrown 92 through the first six innings. That cap will be discussed with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt and potentially re-adjusted before Kershaw starts Game 1 of the NL Championship Series on Saturday at Dodger Stadium, Roberts said.
“With the strength of our bullpen and the confidence I have in those guys, there’s nothing in me that says Clayton has to be pushed,” Roberts said.
Roberts said going into the NLDS that Kershaw would not be pushed to make a start on short rest in Game 4 and any temptation to go back on that was avoided with the sweep of the Diamondbacks. But pushing Kershaw into his personal dark alley will be a temptation every time he pitches in the postseason.
“It’s just watching the game and seeing how Clayton is throwing the baseball on a particular night in the…