The Los Angeles Dodgers were going to ask Ricky Nolasco to close out the Atlanta Braves. Instead, they'll turn to the likely NL Cy Young Award winner.
Looking to clinch a trip to their third NLCS in six years Monday night, the Dodgers surprisingly will hand the ball to ace Clayton Kershaw on short rest in Game 4 at Chavez Ravine.
Los Angeles overcame a poor pitching performance in Sunday's 13-6 win, taking a 2-1 series lead after matching its franchise record for runs in a postseason game. The then-Brooklyn Dodgers won 13-8 over the New York Yankees in Game 2 of the 1956 World Series.
Carl Crawford and Juan Uribe each homered - accounting for five runs - as the Dodgers totaled 14 hits to compensate for rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu giving up four runs and six hits in three innings in his postseason debut.
"It was a total team effort," said Crawford, who also turned in a highlight reel-worthy catch, tumbling over the left-field retaining wall to catch a foul ball in the eighth. "Guys were swinging the bat well. That's what it's going to take: 25 guys to do the job and come together play well."
Sunday marked the Dodgers' first home playoff game since 2009 - their second of two straight trips to the NLCS - and Los Angeles seems eager to get back to that stage of the postseason without traveling back to Atlanta. Instead of giving the ball to Nolasco, who posted a 12.75 ERA in his final three September starts, it'll instead hand the ball to Kershaw on three days' rest.
Kershaw (1-0, 1.29 ERA) held the Braves to a run and three hits while striking out 12 in a 6-1 win in Game 1, and manager Don Mattingly was planning to give him the ball had the Dodgers been facing elimination on Monday. But after initially saying Nolasco would pitch, Mattingly reversed course and decided to try to finish off the Braves with the left-hander - who hasn't pitched on short rest this season.
Should Kershaw fail to close out Atlanta, the Dodgers will have Zack Greinke available on regular rest for Wednesday's Game 5.
Kershaw has struck out 47 Braves in 36 1-3 innings over five career starts, including last week's opener, holding Atlanta to a .178 average. Justin Upton is 3 for 32 and Chris Johnson 2 for 15 in their matchups.
One hitter who's not struggling at all is Los Angeles' Hanley Ramirez, who went 3 for 4 with a triple and a double Sunday to improve to 7 for 13 with six RBIs in the series. His six extra-base hits have tied Carlos Beltran (2004) and Jim Edmonds (2000) for the most in a Division Series.
"He's in a real good groove right now," Crawford said. "He's in a zone."
Atlanta will turn to Freddy Garcia one day after his 37th birthday for only his second postseason start over the last eight seasons. All three of his starts for the Braves have been quality outings since being acquired from Baltimore on Aug. 23.
He's 6-3 with a 3.28 ERA over 10 career postseason starts, but the last victory came in the 2005 World Series for the Chicago White Sox. Garcia also owns a 1-1 record and 2.89 ERA in four meetings with the Dodgers, whom he last faced in 2005.
Ramirez is 3 for 8 off Garcia with a homer and a double.
The Associated Press News Service
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