Some key stats for Game 5 of the National League Championship Series.

Joe Kelly

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Joe Kelly limited the Dodgers to two runs in six innings in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series. (Associated Press photo)


Since it caught a few eyes with yesterday’s starting pitcher, I’m going to rip the Joe Kelly-versus-the-Dodgers statistics straight off baseball-reference.com. Check it out:

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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.”
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Will Ricky Nolasco or Zack Greinke start Game 4 of NLCS? Check back after Game 3.

Ricky Nolasco

Ricky Nolasco went 0-2 with a 12.75 ERA in his final three regular-season starts. (Associated Press photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly conceded Monday that the outcome of Game 3 tonight against the St. Louis Cardinals will influence his choice of a starting pitcher for Game 4.

Ricky Nolasco, the scheduled starter, said he hasn’t been told that anyone is taking place. But Mattingly’s concession was the first time the manager has publicly acknowledged the possibility of Game 1 starter Zack Greinke pitching on three days’ rest.

“Ricky is ready to go,” Mattingly said. “I’ll probably be able to tell you a lot more after the game. I would say, yes, today’s results may have something to do — but like I said, Ricky is ready to go right now.”
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Dodgers manager Don Mattingly: Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3, Ricky Nolasco Game 4 of NLCS.

Hyun-Jin Ryu

Dodgers rookie Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals on Monday. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 and Ricky Nolasco Game 4 of the National League Championship Series against the St. Louis Cardinals in Los Angeles.

That puts perhaps the greatest pressure on Ryu, who must oppose Cardinals ace Adam Wainwright when the Dodgers return home Monday. Wainwright has pitched in 15 postseason games in his career, starting six and recording four saves. In starts, he is 3-0 with a 2.54 ERA. He pitched a complete game and allowed one run Wednesday in the Cardinals’ series-clinching win against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
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Dodgers facing plenty of questions for National League Championship Series roster spots.

Dee Gordon

Dee Gordon’s contribution to the Dodgers’ first-round series against the Atlanta Braves was an unsuccessful stolen base attempt in the ninth inning of Game 2. (Sarah Reingewirtz/Staff photographer)

Don’t expect any National League Championship Series roster announcements from the Dodgers this afternoon.

The team has scheduled a simulated game for 5 p.m. this afternoon at Dodger Stadium. Since it’s expected to rain the rest of the afternoon, there is a chance they will work out indoors. There are more television screens inside, so that might not be a bad thing.

That’s because 5 p.m. is also the scheduled start time for Game 5 of the Division Series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and St. Louis Cardinals. If the Cardinals win, Game 1 of the NLCS is Friday in St. Louis. If the Pirates win, Game 1 is Friday in Los Angeles.

And until a winner is determined, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly isn’t likely to commit to the 25 men he wants for the next round.
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If it ain’t broke: Dodgers, Atlanta Braves using same lineups in Game 2.

Zack Greinke

Zack Greinke has allowed seven earned runs in 11 innings — a 5.73 ERA — in two career starts at Turner Field. (Staff photo)

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez aren’t making any changes to their lineups for Game 2 less than 24 hours after the Dodgers beat the Braves 6-1 in Game 1.

Of the Dodgers’ starters, only Juan Uribe doesn’t have a hit in his career against Braves left-hander Mike Minor (0-for-5). Collectively, the other seven are batting .333 against Minor, led by A.J. Ellis (4-for-10, home run), Adrian Gonzalez (3-for-9, home run) and Carl Crawford (1-for-2, double, walk).

Conversely, the Braves are no stranger to success against Dodgers right-hander Zack Greinke. Only Evan Gattis (zero career meetings) and Andrelton Simmons (0-for-3) have never gotten a hit off Greinke; Justin Upton (6-for-14, two home runs) and Brian McCann (2-for-6, home run) are batting second and fifth again today. Also lurking on the Atlanta bench: Gerald Laird (6-for-20 career against Greinke) and Jordan Schafer (5-for-11, triple).

The complete lineups for both teams:
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Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3, Ricky Nolasco Game 4 for Dodgers in National League Division Series.

Ricky Nolasco

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

Dodgers manager Don Mattingly announced that Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 and Ricky Nolasco an if-necessary Game 4, when their National League Division Series against the Atlanta Braves shifts back to Los Angeles.

Ryu was a virtual lock to start Sunday’s Game 3 after he went 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA in 30 starts, finishing second only to Clayton Kershaw on the team in starts and innings pitched (192). The left-hander faced Altanta twice during the regular season and allowed three runs, striking out 11 batters in 12 ⅔ innings.
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Daily Distractions: The case for Zack Greinke, Game 1 starter.

Clatyon Kershaw Zack Greinke

Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke are arguably best 1-2 combination in the playoffs, but does it really matter who’s 1 and who’s 2? (Associated Press photo)


The world would not fall off its axis if Zack Greinke started the Dodgers’ playoff opener and Clayton Kershaw started Game 2. It would merely seem that way when you think of all the arguments in favor of Kershaw starting Game 1: Kershaw is going to win the National League Cy Young Award; he leads the world in ERA; he’s been the Dodgers’ best starter all season; he’s Clayton Kershaw for goodness sakes!

I’m not about to invoke a sabermetric-versus-old school angle, so this debate will not gain much traction outside of Los Angeles. But there’s a small case to be made for Greinke.

Here are the two pitchers over their last 15 starts:

IP H R ER BB SO BA OPS ERA
108.2 76 23 20 19 106 .198 .516 1.66
102.2 72 18 18 22 89 .197 .539 1.58

Leave out the wins and losses, and it’s not so easy to guess which stat line belongs to which pitcher. (Kershaw, who is 9-4 in his last 15 starts, owns the first line. Greinke, who is 9-1, owns the second.) The small differences are outweighed by the similarities.

The main reason Greinke isn’t challenging Kershaw for the National League ERA title is because he wasn’t nearly as effective in his first 12 starts of the season. Blame a stop-and-go spring training, blame Carlos Quentin — whatever the reason, Greinke’s early-season numbers have hurt his October credentials.

Greinke pitched only two games in April and three in May because of his run-in with Quentin. That carries another side effect: Greinke has made five fewer starts, and thrown 622 fewer pitches than Kershaw, this season. When choosing between a pair of virtual equals on the mound, shouldn’t that count for something? Say the Dodgers’ first-round series goes to five games. If Kershaw needs to start Game 5, that will be 35th start of the season. If Greinke starts the game, it would be his 30th.

You would still see both pitchers at least once in a best-of-seven NLCS, should the Dodgers get that far. Same for the World Series. So the question of who pitches Game 1 is just as much about who pitches a do-or-die Game 5 in the divisional series. If both pitchers are equally capable, why not choose the arm with less wear and tear?

Think of this like the final laps of a NASCAR race. Your car needs new tires. A caution flag is thrown late in the race. You have the choice of staying out or pulling into the pits for a fresh set of tires. Why not pit?

The question is moot, because there is no debate. The Dodgers have already chosen Kershaw for Game 1 and Greinke for Game 2, a decision that passed without much surprise or second-guessing. The rotation is lined up.

It probably wasn’t a coin flip, but it could have been.

Some bullet points to kick off a National Dog Week:
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Dodgers 9, Arizona Diamondbacks 3.

Hanley Ramirez

Hanley Ramirez scores one of his three runs Tuesday in the Dodgers’ 9-3 win. (Associated Press photo)

When the book is written on the Dodgers’ 2013 season, the period of time between Sept. 4 and Sept. 16 must be given its own chapter. It’s the part where the Dodgers re-visit the concept of mortality for their own amusement, playfully goading their opponents’ egos at the expense of nervous fans. Juan Uribe became a cleanup hitter, Edinson Volquez started three times and the Dodgers lost a game 19-3. Funny chapter, you’ve got to admit.

Well, maybe.

It was taken on faith Tuesday that Matt Kemp, Hanley Ramirez and Yasiel Puig were all healthy. They were in the starting lineup, at least. Kemp, making his first start since July after spraining his ankle and tweaking his hamstring, played center field but did not approach full speed. Neither did Ramirez, who missed four games due to symptoms of sciatica. Puig’s hip was such an unknown factor just two days ago, manager Don Mattingly said the rookie phenom might miss one day to two weeks — then used him as a pinch-hitter the same night. Andre Ethier, whose left ankle is in a protective boot, was allowed to take a day off.


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Sizing up the Dodgers’ September (and early October) starting rotation. Update.

Clayton Kershaw

Clayton Kershaw will make his next start Saturday in San Diego. (John McCoy/Staff photographer)

Clayton Kershaw will start Saturday in San Diego and Stephen Fife will start Wednesday in Phoenix, a decision first reported here and since reflected on the Dodgers’ home page.

That presents one short-term question for the Dodgers’ rotation and many more for the next two weeks, including the playoffs.

Friday’s starter still isn’t listed on the Dodgers’ home page, but the process of elimination makes Edinson Volquez the logical choice. Volquez pitched Sunday in Los Angeles and would be starting on normal rest Friday. Five other starters (Hyun-Jin Ryu on Monday, Zack Greinke today, Fife on Wednesday, Ricky Nolasco on Thursday and Kershaw on Saturday) are all accounted for this week, so Volquez figures to be the man on Friday if he’s healthy. It would be his second appearance against the Padres since they cut him in August.

Determining the Dodgers’ rotation over their final seven regular-season games beginning Sunday is another puzzle, one that’s complicated by the decision to push back Kershaw’s next start.
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