We ignore the reality that tomorrow may never come. We do this in order to preserve our sanity. If we spent every waking moment conscious of our own mortality, nothing would get done. It usually takes something monumental to break us out of the trance. It’s only when end is nigh that we take stock of our situation and, perhaps, alter our behavior in the interest of extending our time on this spinning rock.
The Los Angeles Dodgers received a dire prognosis in the form of a Game 3 defeat at the hands of the Washington Nationals. A loss later today would be the final nail in the coffin and result in another winter of the unique discontent an underachieving team with a mammoth payroll can bring.
Their two starting pitching options for Game 4 were both lefties, Julio Urias or Clayton Kershaw. The former was still a teenager just two months ago. The latter is perhaps the best pitcher on the planet.
Urias would be on 11 days’ rest. Kershaw would be on three. Whomever Dave Roberts picked would be going up against Washington’s Joe Ross with Max Scherzer looming in a possible winner-take-all Game 5.
After much mystery, Roberts went with Kershaw. And it’s the right choice, no matter the outcome.
Armchair managers will suggest starting rookie Urias at home will give him a better chance at success than a deciding game in front of a hostile crowd. They’ll point to the fact that he’s more rested and has been competent against the Nationals this year (3 earned runs in nine innings). They’ll argue he has a better chance at outperforming Ross than former Cy Young winner Scherzer.
But the rebuttal is simple. There is no Game 5 if the Dodgers don’t win Game 4. Having a fully rested Kershaw against Scherzer is worthless if he never gets the chance. When the flames are lapping at your ankles, there is no reasonable choice but to use the fire extinguisher at hand. Live to fight another day.
Kershaw’s history on three days’ rest has been only mediocre but he did hurl seven innings of one-run ball in a similar situation against the New York Mets last year.
Sure, Los Angeles may have to MacGuyver their way through a future Game 5. That plan may include Urias and Rich Hill building a bridge to the bullpen. It’s not an ideal situation but neither is the prospect of never boarding a plane bound for the nation’s capital.