CHICAGO — The baseball world’s suspicions that Clayton Kershaw would start Sunday’s Game 2 of the NLCS started to gel around 2:45 p.m. on Saturday.
That’s when the Los Angeles Dodgers ace was the first person to surface at Wrigley Field. The lefthander started going through the workout he normally does the day before a start.
Ninety minutes later, it was confirmed when he walked into a pregame press conference. Kershaw will start against Cubs righty Kyle Hendricks, on Sunday extending a busy week that saw him start Game 4 of the NLDS on Tuesday and earn the final two outs of the Dodgers’ clinching Game 5 win over the Washington Nationals on Thursday.
Kershaw, who missed more than two months of the season with a back injury, said he will be pitching under no restrictions. He pitched 110 pitches in Game 4 while needing only seven pitches to notch the save in Game 5.
Kershaw said the number of pitches he threw on Thursday (including bullpen) were similar to what he would throw on an offday, though the intensity was obviously different.
“I feel fine,” he told the media before Saturday’s Game 1. “It’s been a little bit since we got to do this, and Wrigley Field, it’s going to be pretty exciting.”
Though he’s long been the one of the best pitchers in baseball during the regular season, Kershaw’s struggles in the postseason have been well documented. He holds a 4.79 ERA over 77 innings dating back to 2008.
The Game 5 save aside, Kershaw hasn’t been great this fall, either. He allowed three runs over five innings in the Dodgers’ Game 1 victory, but was awarded the win. He gave up five runs over 6 2/3 innings in Game 4, but struck out 11.
Sunday will be his 13th postseason start. He didn’t face the Cubs during the regular season, nor did fellow starters Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill.
Kershaw said it was cool to notch his first career save against the Nationals, though he quickly put it behind him as the team traveled to Chicago.
“It doesn’t really matter at this point. I know the Cubs don’t care,” he said. “They know that we’re trying to beat them just as bad as they’re trying to beat us, and that’s what we’re focused on right now.”