CHICAGO — Never mind the heavy workload and short rest, Clayton Kershaw insisted he is ready to pitch again.
The Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace will start Game 2 of the NL Championship Series against the Chicago Cubs on Sunday night after pitching in all three wins during the Division Series against Washington. That included a two-out save in the decisive Game 5 on Thursday night.
The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 3-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 16 career playoff appearances, including 12 starts.
“Yeah, I feel fine,” Kershaw said Saturday . “I feel good. I’m excited. It’s been a little bit since we got to do this, and Wrigley Field, it’s going to be pretty exciting. The fans, everywhere you go, people are talking about it, so it will be fun tomorrow, for sure.”
Kyle Hendricks gets the ball for the Cubs in Game 2. The right-hander went 16-8 with a major league-best 2.13 ERA this season but left his Division Series start against San Francisco after taking a comebacker off his right forearm .
Kershaw hasn’t faced Chicago this year. The same was true for Game 1 starter Kenta Maeda and Rich Hill, who was acquired from Oakland on Aug. 1 and will open Game 3. Manager Dave Roberts said he has not decided who will start Game 4.
Kershaw came out of bullpen to get the final two outs for his first major league save and close out the division series, two days after throwing 110 pitches in Game 4 on short rest. He is approaching this as a normal start with no limitations.
Roberts called it a “no-brainer” to go with Kershaw once his ace told him he was feeling fine.
“It’s just more of just getting assurance that he feels good physically, which he does, and so it’s one of those things, obviously, when you get a chance for Clayton to pitch Games 2 and potentially 6, that’s a good thing for us,” Roberts said. “And, yeah, it’s full go.”
Kershaw figures to be challenged by a team that led the majors with 103 wins — 12 more than Los Angeles. The Cubs were second in on-base percentage and third in runs scored during the regular season.
Chicago took three of four from Los Angeles in a low-scoring series at Wrigley Field from May 30 to June 2, getting wins from Jon Lester and Hendricks. Los Angeles won two of three meetings at home in late August, dropping the opener 6-4 in 10 innings before winning the final two games 3-2 and 1-0.
“I think that they’re constantly working counts, getting into good hitters counts, getting on base,” Kershaw said. “And that’s something that is difficult for a starting pitcher. You got to — you want to limit the damage but at the same time you can’t go for four innings, a hundred pitches. So you got to figure out how to get these guys out with quality pitches quickly. And it’s not an easy task.”