After taking two of three from the Oakland Athletics, the Los Angeles Dodgers conclude their final homestand of the regular season with a three-game series against the L.A. Angels.
Getting the nod in Friday’s opener is Clayton Kershaw, who looks to put the finishing touches on another stellar campaign. Catching him will be none other than Austin Barnes, as the two have found success together this year.
“The thing about Clayton is he’s willing to do whatever we ask, but the synergy he and Austin have, I think it’s real and you’ve got to appreciate it,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts.
Barnes has caught Kershaw in all but one of his 10 starts this season. Dating back to 2016, the two have formed the battery 40 times. “They have history,” Roberts said.
“This is a four-year history that they’ve built a relationship, they think along the same lines, and obviously Austin’s skill behind the plate as well.
“The last time Will caught Clayton was in Arizona, and Clayton just wasn’t good, to be quite frank. It didn’t matter who was catching him. I still believe the body of work Austin and Clayton have, there’s something to it.”
Smith, who has been the Dodgers’ best offensive backstop this season, caught Kershaw on Sept. 9 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The left-hander endured one of his worst starts, allowing six baserunners and four runs (three runs) in five innings.
Kershaw, meanwhile, has compiled a minuscule 1.82 ERA and 0.71 WHIP in eight starts when throwing to Barnes. “I don’t love it,” Roberts admitted of a pitcher having a personal catcher.
“But I think if you’re looking at the postseason, with playing every day, you’re not going to have Will catch five games in a row or seven games in the CS. He’s going to have to get days off. It’s kind of smart to have Austin in there with Clayton.”
Kershaw not worried about postseason starting rotation order
As the regular season dwindles down, the Dodgers likely already have an idea on how they will be aligning their starting rotation for the playoffs.
Beginning with the best-of-three Wild Card Series, the club could turn to Kershaw in Game 1 for the first time since 2017, or give the nod to Walker Buehler as they did last year.
Either way, Kershaw isn’t concerned with where he will be slotted and vowed to be prepared for his first start. “It doesn’t matter,” he said.
“Walker and I will both be ready. Whenever Walker and I start, we don’t care. We’ll be good.”
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