How (and when) Ricky Nolasco became the Dodgers’ Game 4 starter.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco will start Game 4 of the National League Division series for the Dodgers. (Associated Press photo)

Ricky Nolasco is starting Game 4 of the National League Championship Series for the Dodgers, just like everyone knew all along.

Yeah, right.

Not even manager Don Mattingly was sold on Nolasco at this time yesterday.

“We met yesterday,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling great about it. I wasn’t feeling 100 percent about it. It was on my mind all day yesterday, all the time here at the ballpark yesterday early on. It was on my mind: ‘What was the right thing to do?’ After we met, it got a chance to keep sinking in. At the beginning it wasn’t feeling great. About the third inning I said to Rick ‘I’m going with Ricky tomorrow.’ That was it.”

Mattingly reiterated that Nolasco would have started today even if the Dodgers were facing elimination.

“We flip-flopped more than once on what we wanted to do with it,” he said.

Zack Greinke started Game 1 of the series four days ago in St. Louis and lost. He repeatedly declined comment when asked if he was a candidate to start Game 4 on three days’ rest. But according to Mattingly both Greinke and Game 2 starter Clayton Kershaw volunteered to pitch on short rest in Games 4 and 5, respectively.

Even when there’s a will, there’s a better way sometimes.

“Zack was willing and Zack’s sometimes a tough read,” Mattingly said. “I just wanted him to be able to go compete like a starting pitcher/ace should be able to compete. I didn’t feel like he was going to be able to do that.”

The last time Greinke was asked to pitch on short rest was in 2011. He lasted six innings, allowing two runs while striking out four and walking none.

If Greinke could start Game 4 on three days’ rest, he would open the possibility for doing the same in Game 7 — if the Dodgers were able to push the series to the breaking point. However, Mattingly said that was never under consideration.

Though he acknowledged that Nolasco is in a tough spot — he threw an 80-pitch simulated game six days ago, but hasn’t faced live hitters in a game since Sept. 29 — the manager went with his gut. He went with some numbers, too: Nolasco is 3–0 with a 0.36 ERA in his last four starts against the Cardinals.

Now, Greinke will pitch Game 5. If the Dodgers can win one of the next two games, Kershaw will pitch Game 6 on Friday in St. Louis. Hyun-Jin Ryu would pitch a potential Game 7 on Saturday.

“At the end of the day, it rested on the feeling for today,” Mattingly said. “That’s what sets everything else up.”

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About J.P. Hoornstra

J.P. Hoornstra covers the Dodgers, Angels and Major League Baseball for the Orange County Register, Los Angeles Daily News, Long Beach Press-Telegram, Torrance Daily Breeze, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Pasadena Star-News, San Bernardino Sun, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, Whittier Daily News and Redlands Daily Facts. Before taking the beat in 2012, J.P. covered the NHL for four years. UCLA gave him a degree once upon a time; when he graduated on schedule, he missed getting Arnold Schwarzenegger's autograph on his diploma by five months.