Ace in the hole: Kershaw ready for G7 relief

The frustration of leads lost under his watch on Sunday was still fresh for Clayton Kershaw when he hit send on the text message to his manager Dave Roberts during Monday’s off-day.

“Whatever you need me to do,” it read. “I’m ready to go.”

Roberts’ preference was to refrain from using Kershaw in Game 6, and a stellar night from the Dodgers’ bullpen in Tuesday night’s 3-1 victory over the Astros at Dodger Stadium afforded him that luxury. Now Game 7 presents a different opportunity, one in which Roberts will look for ways to use his ace left-hander.

It’s not expected to be an if, but rather a when and for how long will Kershaw make his third and final appearance of this World Series.

“When you’re talking about Clayton Kershaw, Game 7, I think anything’s within reason,” foreshadowed Roberts.

Added Kershaw: “I can give 27 innings.”

Kershaw spent Tuesday night watching from Los Angeles’ bullpen, just in case the summons came in Game 6. He started to stir late in the game and loosened up his arm by throwing against the bullpen wall, just in case Kenley Jansen required a lifeline. There’d be no such need.

That extra day of rest will translate into extra pitches available to Kershaw for Game 7.

The task will not be unfamiliar to Kershaw, who closed out Game 5 of the 2016 National League Division Series with his first relief appearance since 2009. Kershaw, who had thrown 110 pitches two nights earlier, delivered seven more that night to garner the two outs the Dodgers needed to push past the Nationals.

This time, Kershaw will be coming off a 94-pitch effort in his Game 5 start. And he’ll have that additional day of rest.

“Preparation is out the door at this point,” said Kershaw, who surrendered six runs over 4 2/3 innings in Game 5 on Sunday. “Routine is out the door. There are no excuses. You just have to go get guys out as fast as you can and pitch as long as they want you to.”

This will mark the third Game 7 in the past four World Series, and in the past two, aces have pitched critical innings for the eventual victor. Last year it was Jon Lester, who came back on two days’ rest to cover three innings in relief for the Cubs. He allowed one run and threw 55 pitches.

And two years before that, it was Madison Bumgarner who offered a vintage performance with five shutout innings to close a Game 7 win for the Giants. Bumgarner, pitching three days after twirling a complete game, gave San Francisco 68 pitches that night.

Kershaw is ready to follow suit.

“It’s the last game of the season,” Kershaw insisted. “I’ll be ready to go with whatever they need.”

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