Clayton Kershaw has everything going for him right now. He's 18-3 with three starts left to get to 20, plays on a first place team, and has been so dominant that he sure looks like the front runner for NL MVP.
And what is it about him that trumps all of that stuff? His fiery desire to be the best and finish what he starts.
Such was the case on Monday night, as Kershaw was yanked by Don Mattingly after eight innings, 89 pitches, and an 9-3 lead. Kershaw immediately protested, if not flat out begged, but Donnie was having none of it.
And to that I say this - good for Donnie.
It's obvious Donnie has learned from last year's postseason, in which Kershaw unraveled in a horrific season ending loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the NLCS. If you need a reminder of his final line, here it is: 4 IP, 10 H, 7 ER, 2 BB, 5 K. And a big, fat 9-0 loss. It was a pretty big thud to end what was another Cy Young Award winning season.
Right now Kershaw is lined up for three more starts, and two of them are against the Giants. You know, the same Giants that are three games in back of the Dodgers for tops in the NL West. That same team that looked dead and buried earlier in the summer, only to remind everyone why they're contenders every year.
It's a smart move to save Kershaw's bullets for more meaningful games than finishing off the lowly Padres in a five-run game. I'll be the first to tell you how lousy most of the bullpen is, but even I would admit that it's a smart thing to turn it over to them to get three measly outs.
And here's another thought to store in the back of your heads: Suppose the Dodgers and Giants have to settle the score for the NL West in a one-game playoff, or if the Dodgers have to face another team just to get in, then which guy will be on four days' rest at the end of the regular season? That's right, Mr. Kershaw.
So, a lot is going on in Dodger land these last three weeks, and Kershaw is right at the top of all the action. Let's remember that he did spend some time on the DL earlier this year with a sore back muscle, so as durable as he's been in taking the ball and delivering time after time, you can never be too sure with starting pitchers. The possibility of some sort of arm trouble is always there.
Say what you want about Mattingly, as plenty have, but he absolutely made the right call in yanking Kershaw after eight innings on Monday. Just a little more rest could be the difference in pitching deep into October, or watching it from home.