Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers have lost the 2017 World Series and the probable National League Manager of the Year will forever be questioned for one move: not starting Clayton Kershaw in Game 7.
While it’s easy to second-guess Roberts now, it’s worth examining just why Kershaw wasn’t on the bump to open Game 7, since he came into the game and threw multiple dominant innings anyway.
Roberts decided to rely on Yu Darvish to start the biggest game he’s ever managed. Darvish is the same guy who lasted just 1.2 innings in Game 3, allowing four runs on six hits, with one walk and no strikeouts. In that contest it was clear Darvish had absolutely nothing working. Sure, he could have bounced back in Game 7, but given what we saw last Friday, I wouldn’t have run him out there if I was Roberts.
We all know how it played out on Wednesday night, Darvish again lasted just 1.2 innings, allowing five runs (four earned) and three hits. Just like in Game 3, nothing was working for him. His ERA for the series was a ridiculous 21.60.
Kershaw wound up in the game anyway, as he entered in the third inning and was outstanding. He threw four innings, allowed just two hits and no runs, while striking out four and issuing two intentional walks. He threw 43 pitches, 34 went for strikes.
Yes, Kershaw was only on two days rest, but it was the final game of the season, and he wound up giving the Dodgers four good innings. Anything would have been better than Darvish’s implosion that put the Dodgers down 5-0 before the second inning was over.
Here’s the thing: if you knew Kershaw could give you 40-plus pitches, why not open the game with him and get off on the right foot? He’s the best pitcher of his generation and you’re not going to roll with him to open the biggest game your franchise has played in 29 years?
Kershaw wasn’t his best in Game 5, allowing six runs in 4.2 innings in a contest the Astros eventually won 13-12 in 10 innings. But there was virtually no chance he was going to struggle in back-to-back starts, regardless of how much rest he got.
Again, it’s easy to second-guess that decision now, I get it. But was anyone actually confident Darvish would spin a gem? At least if Kershaw failed you could say you had rolled with the best player on your team in the biggest spot of the year.