Braves stick with Garcia after Dodgers opt to go with Kershaw on short rest
Regardless of what is deciphered from the paragraphs that follow, most of you are not going to understand why the Braves are sticking with the plan to send Freddy Garcia to the mound for tonight’s game against the Dodgers. The team that led the Majors in ERA this year will enter its first true do-or-die situation with the hope of getting a solid outing from a veteran pitcher, whose most encouraging credentials are a product of the nine postseason starts he made before Brian McCann celebrated his 22nd birthday.
And to further sweeten the debate pot, the Dodgers have announced Clayton Kershaw will return on short rest to oppose Garcia tonight and attempt to eliminate the Braves.
Before the Dodgers made this announcement early Monday afternoon, there was debate about why the Braves were going to stick with Garcia instead of handing the ball to Kris Medlen, who like Kershaw has never previously followed a start with another on short rest. Four of Medlen’s career starts have been made within four days after he had a relief appearance, none of which consisted of more than one inning or 24 pitches.
All indications are that the Braves will stick with Garcia, setting up one of those classic postseason battles that pits the top Cy Young Award candidate against a veteran who is just six weeks removed from making the last of the 14 starts he made at the Triple-A level this year.
This decision made by the Dodgers creates the possibility that they will send Zack Greinke to the mound with regular rest for Game 5 on Wednesday if necessary. Had they gone with Medlen on short rest, the Braves would have the opportunity to do the same with Mike Minor.
From an optimistic point of view, the Braves are going to have to hope getting a second look at Kershaw four days after he threw 124 pitches in Game 1 proves to be beneficial.
Kershaw’s only regular season start this year that consisted of more than 120 pitches came on May 14, when he tossed 8 2/3 scoreless innings against the Nationals. Making his next start with an extra day of rest on May 20, he allowed three hits and allowed one run while going the distance against the Brewers.
There is no doubt that Kershaw currently stands as the game’s best pitcher. But history has proven that it is hard to predict how a pitcher will fare when pitching on short rest.
Braves pitchers have gone 10-11 with a 3.75 ERA in the 31 starts that their pitchers have made on short rest during the postseason, dating back to 1991. But these numbers accounts for starts that have been made within four days after a relief appearance.
Accounting simply for the short-rest starts that have been made following a start, Atlanta’s pitchers have posted 5.61 ERA in the 17 starts that fit this criteria since 1991.
John Smoltz had little trouble as he posted a 2.45 ERA in five short-rest starts in October. Greg Maddux allowed four earned runs and combined for 10 innings in the two playoff starts he made for Atlanta with short rest.
Tom Glavine compiled a 6.09 ERA in six postseason starts made on short rest. But this is another misleading number created by a small sample size. Glavine allowed three earned runs or fewer and lasted at least five innings in five of those outings. He just happened to allow seven earned runs while lasting fewer than three innings in two others.
Glavine made three consecutive starts on short rest during the 1992 playoffs. In the first, he allowed the Pirates seven earned runs and lasted just one inning. Four days later, he opened the World Series by limiting the Blue Jays to one run while going the distance. In Game 4, he allowed two runs over eight innings.
Regardless of what transpires, we can assume either Mattingly or Gonzalez will be second-guessed by the end of the night. ‘Tis the postseason, a period during which every decision, mistake and accomplishment is critiqued to the Nth degree.