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Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will start NLCS Game 4 against Braves

Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw will start NLCS Game 4 against Braves

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw watches from the dugout during Game 2 of the National League Championship Series on Tuesday in Arlington, Texas. After being scratched from his Game 2 start with back spasms, he is expected to start Game 4 on Thursday against the Braves. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw works out before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. After being scratched from his Game 2 start with back spasms, he is expected to start Game 4 on Thursday against the Braves. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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  • Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw stretches before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. After being scratched from his Game 2 start with back spasms, he is expected to start Game 4 on Thursday against the Braves. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw works out before Game 3 of the National League Championship Series on Wednesday in Arlington, Texas. After being scratched from his Game 2 start with back spasms, he is expected to start Game 4 on Thursday against the Braves. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

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ARLINGTON, Texas — Two days after he was scratched due to back spasms, the Dodgers will hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw in hopes of evening the National League Championship Series at two games apiece.

“We’re going to start Clayton tomorrow,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after Game 3 on Wednesday night. “My expectation is that he’s going to go out there, make his start and help us win a baseball game.”

Kershaw was scheduled to start Game 2 on Tuesday. But he had suffered back spasms when he threw a bullpen session on Saturday and the Dodgers decided to go with Tony Gonsolin instead.

Nonetheless, Kershaw was in the bullpen at Globe Life Field on Tuesday afternoon going through a full workout – doing dry work (repeating his delivery without throwing a ball), weighted-ball work and eventually throwing off the mound.

“It was a pretty aggressive one. He was letting it go,” Roberts said of the workout. “He came out of it great. I talked to him briefly today and he’s in a good headspace.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner will take the mound Thursday after a full week off. He went six innings in Game 2 of the NL Division Series against the San Diego Padres, giving up three runs on six hits (including back-to-back home runs to Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer).

Roberts has not used Dustin May out of the bullpen since he went 1-2/3 innings in relief in Game 1. But the Dodgers manager was not ready to say May will start Game 5.

“Right now, we’re just focused on Clayton making the start,” Roberts said. “We’ll pick up the pieces after that and see where Walker (Buehler) and Dustin are at.”

CLOSING TIME

With the score 15-1, Roberts brought struggling closer Kenley Jansen in to pitch the sixth inning of Game 3. It was the earliest Jansen has pitched in a game since he pitched the sixth through eighth innings of NLCS Game 6 in 2016. The Chicago Cubs closed out the series that night. Before that, Jansen hadn’t pitched that early in a game since July 19, 2011 against the San Francisco Giants.

“I was pleased with the way he threw the baseball,” Roberts said of Jansen, who retired the side. “Every inning is important. Every out is important. Just to give him an opportunity to pitch as he’s been working through some delivery stuff, to see how it plays against major-league hitters, that’s beneficial for everyone.”

TOP DOWN

As deep as the Dodgers’ lineup might be, Mookie Betts says he feels the responsibility to spark the offense.

“Oh yes, that’s my job,” he said before Game 3. “I lead off. I have to take ownership of that. I’ve been doing it all year and I can’t stop now. I haven’t done it these last couple games, so I need to get rolling and try to spark some energy.”

Betts was 0 for 6 to start the NLCS before his ninth-inning single in Game 2 started a four-run rally. Five of those hitless at-bats came against left-handed pitchers – Game 1 starter Max Fried and relievers Will Smith and Tyler Matzek.

Betts was shockingly bad against left-handed pitching during the regular season, going 10 for 54 (.185) with only one extra-base hit (a double) and a .505 OPS that ranked second-lowest among right-handed batters against left-handed pitching this season.

It’s a big departure from his career numbers, which are virtually even against right- and left-handed pitching – a .302 average against righties, .296 against lefties with OPS nearly equal as well (.897 against right-handers, .887 vs. lefties).

“Nope. I don’t really know,” he said when asked for a reason behind this year’s uncharacteristic splits.“I mean, I’m sure there’s been some differences (in the way he is being pitched). But, I don’t have an answer to that. Maybe I’ve just been struggling a little bit against lefties. There’s no answer for it.”

Betts reached base twice in the Dodgers’ historic 11-run first inning in Game 3 – an infield single off right-hander Kyle Wright and a walk against left-hander Grant Dayton.

TITLE TOWN

The Lakers’ championship has only increased the pressure on the Dodgers to end their 32-year title drought. Betts said he understands the expectations among the Dodgers’ fan base and that anything short of a title this year will not satisfy them.

“Yeah, Absolutely,” Betts said. “I think it’s been said since the first day I stepped foot in L.A. and obviously there’s a lot of eyes watching and a lot of people that want us to come back with a ring. So I take ownership and I have to bring it back.

“It’s a blessing to have that kind of pressure. We’re put in this spot and we have to succeed. That’s what we play for. And so, like I said, it’s a blessing to be in this spot. We have to enjoy it and come through.”

AWARD SEASON

The finalists for the 2020 MLB Players Choice Awards were announced Wednesday and Betts is a finalist as the National League’s Outstanding Player. Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman and Washington outfielder Juan Soto are the other finalists. Winners will be announced on Oct. 22.

And Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager is one of seven National League finalists for the 2020 Hank Aaron Award which goes to the outstanding offensive performer in each league. Other finalists are Freeman, Soto, Philadelphia outfielder Bryce Harper, St. Louis first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, San Diego third baseman Manny Machado and New York Mets first baseman Dominic Smith. Fans can vote for the winner at mlb.com/hankaaronaward.


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