Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

It's show-me time for Dodgers, Kershaw in NLDS against Nationals

WASHINGTON — Inside his office at Dodger Stadium, two weeks before embarking on his first playoff run as a manager, Dave Roberts picked up his phone and dialed a man who delivered four titles to Los Angeles.

Pat Riley was expecting the call. Lon Rosen, the Dodgers' vice president and chief marketing officer, had connected the two.

Roberts grew up in San Diego watching Riley's Lakers.

Now he spent about 20 minutes soliciting advice from the sideline maestro of Showtime.

"A lot of it is continuing to do what you've done and counting on that," Roberts said after a workout at Nationals Park on Thursday, a day before Game 1 of the Dodgers' National League Division Series against the Nationals. "But also, you spend a lot of time putting in time with the guys who aren't the superstars. But he encouraged me to really give that same amount of time to the superstars."

For Riley, that meant devoting time to Magic Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. For Roberts, it translated into more attention for Clayton Kershaw and Corey Seager, the two most talented players on the roster and the two most critical to advancement beyond the first round of the playoffs.

Seager has the entirety of the series to display his talent. But Kershaw will take center stage on Friday night as he duels with Nationals ace Max Scherzer.

Kershaw considers Scherzer the favorite to win the National League Cy Young award, a title Kershaw appeared on track to win before suffering a herniated disk.

Scherzer considers Kershaw the sport's finest pitcher.

"It's what you play this game for," Scherzer said of Friday's matchup. "You don't measure yourself against the worst. You measure yourself against the best. And I think this is the best possible opponent I could face, with the Dodgers and Kershaw throwing."

When the Dodgers visited Washington in July, Kershaw remained in Los Angeles, days removed from a setback in his rehabilitation. At the time, Roberts worried that Kershaw might need season-ending surgery. He held on to that worry for months, even as Kershaw resumed his throwing program and started pitching in simulated games.

Kershaw returned to action Sept. 9 at Miami. He lasted only three innings. But five days later, he strung together five scoreless innings against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and his back held firm despite a series of rain delays that interrupted his rhythm.

"I think," Roberts said, "that was a big exhale for all of us."

Kershaw made five starts in the last month of the season. In his first two, he admitted, he felt nervous about his condition because "in the back of your head, you're like, 'Am I going to hurt it again?' "

That anxiety faded during his final three starts, when he gave up four runs, two unearned, in 20 innings.

The playoffs have not been kind to Kershaw.

Despite his success against the Braves and Mets, his earned-run average in his last eight outings is a pedestrian 4.20, a product of several dalliances with the Cardinals.

"I don't know how many starts I've had in the regular season, but hundreds, and you don't have that opportunity in the postseason," Kershaw said. "So you've got to make it count.

"And the bad ones stand out more, for sure."

Kershaw appeared at ease Thursday. He whistled along with Bob Marley's Stir It Up, which played through the ballpark's speaker system as his team took the field.

He smiled when climbing on the back of the cage to watch his team take batting practice. He insisted he had never felt more relaxed before a playoff outing.

"In the past I've definitely felt that pressure more," Kershaw said. "But this year's been a little bit different for me, just as far as having to watch on the sidelines for two months, under-standing how good our team it. It's really kind of hit home for me as I've come back that I can definitely be a part of this and definitely help and definitely be a factor in winning. But I don't have to be the factor.

"We have so many guys that can do so many different things that it's not all on me."

That knowledge gave Roberts comfort. The Dodgers enter the series with only one obvious weakness — an inability to hit left-handed pitchers — but the Nationals appear wary to exploit it. Nationals manager Dusty Baker declined to say whether enigmatic left-hander Gio Gonzalez would start in Game 2.

So Roberts was brimming with confidence. He planned to call Riley again on Friday for a last bit of advice. And then he will try to guide the Dodgers to their first World Series championship since 1988.

"The nerves haven't hit yet," Roberts said. "I just feel like we're just in such a good place. Whatever happens, happens. But I just know that no one is going to be more prepared than us."

It's show-me time for Dodgers, Kershaw in NLDS against Nationals 10/07/16 [Last modified: Thursday, October 6, 2016 10:19pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

Copyright: For copyright information, please check with the distributor of this item, Tribune News Service.

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Florida Gators to host South Alabama in 2020


    The Florida Gators will host South Alabama in 2020, UF announced Thursday morning.

  2. Bishop McLaughlin defies expectations in getting back to state


    SHADY HILLS — For the second time in three seasons, Bishop McLaughlin is one of the four best teams in Class 3A, but this Hurricane team couldn't be more different than its predecessor.

    Pitcher Dominic Diaz warms up his arm in practice at Bishop McLaughlin Catholic High School in Spring Hill, Florida on Monday, May 22, 2017.
  3. Bucs to add linebacker from Germany for 2017 practice squad


    The Bucs will be part of a new NFL program this fall that will grant an 11th practice squad slot to an overseas player, with German-born Eric Nzeocha, a linebacker who played at the University of Wyoming, slated to join Tampa Bay's roster for the 2017 season.

    Wyoming linebacker Eric Nzeocha, 24, will be an 11th member of the Bucs' practice squad in 2017 as part of a program to bring more international players to the NFL. He was born in Germany but played in college at Wyoming.
  4. Major-league bullpens get stretched as starters take a seat

    The Heater

    Mike Marshall led the majors in appearances in 1973, with 92 for the Montreal Expos. The next spring, having joined the Los Angeles Dodgers, Marshall met his new manager, Walter Alston.