LOS ANGELES (AP) — The last time the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the St. Louis Cardinals in the playoffs, Clayton Kershaw had a terrible outing and the Dodgers were bounced out of the postseason.
A year later and a round earlier, Kershaw has a chance to erase the memories of that 9-0 loss in Game 6 when he starts Friday’s NL Division Series opener against Adam Wainwright.
“That’s the hardest part about it. Your season ends,” Kershaw said Thursday before the Dodgers worked out. “It always hangs with you until your next start. I had to wait a long time for that next one.”
Kershaw is coming off another award-worthy regular season in which he went 21-3 and his 1.77 ERA led the major leagues for the fourth straight year. He was 10-2 with a 1.70 ERA at home, too.
Wainwright hasn’t been nearly as successful at Chavez Ravine. The right-hander is 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA in seven games, including six starts.
“I pay no mind to what happened in the regular season,” Wainwright said. “Obviously, Clayton had an amazing regular season and now we go to the postseason and it’s anybody’s ballgame. This is one game for the rest of your lives every day, so we’ll take that mindset and be ready.”
Wainwright had the third-best ERA in the National League at 2.38 this season, and was even better on the road at 1.72. But in a season in which Kershaw has been so dominant, the Cardinals’ ace can’t help but be somewhat of an afterthought.
“I’m more impressed that, what is he 26 years old, that he’s had the career he’s already had and is the pitcher he is already,” the 33-year-old Wainwright said. “Most times it takes a pitcher a few years to kind of break in and then he starts finding his own, and he’s just been excellent from the very beginning.”
Kershaw missed a handful of starts with a bad back in April, and after pitching late into the postseason a year ago, the injury provided him some welcome rest. Manager Don Mattingly said the team was looking for ways to reduce Kershaw’s innings anyway, and the schedule kicked in some extra help late last month.
“I don’t know if that’s going to make a difference or not,” Kershaw said. “I feel pretty much the same health-wise as I did last year. Arm feels great. Strength, everything physically feels really good.”
The series opener is set to start in late afternoon with temperatures near 100 degrees forecast. Kershaw doesn’t think the shadows that can affect pitchers and hitters will set in until a couple of hours later.
“Hopefully it’s the eighth inning by then and I’m good to go,” he said, laughing.
The Dodgers deliberately chose to work out Thursday at 3:30 p.m. PDT to mimic the conditions they’ll face at game time Friday.
“It will cool off as the game goes a little bit,” Mattingly said.
The Cardinals released their 25-player roster for the series on Thursday, leaving off veterans Jason Motte, former Dodger Mark Ellis and A.J. Pierzynski. All-Star catcher Yadier Molina will be backed up by Tony Cruz.
Manager Mike Matheny said Michael Wacha, last year’s NCLS MVP who beat Kershaw twice in that series, will work out of the bullpen this time.
“We haven’t had him in that role all season. He gets it, he gets what’s right now, what’s going to be best for the club,” Matheny said. “We know he can go long, we know he can come in and get a big out if we needed him to.”
Mattingly confirmed Hyun-Jin Ryu will start Game 3 on Monday in St. Louis. It will be the first game he’s pitched since coming out early on Sept. 9 because of left shoulder irritation, and his first career road playoff start.
Ryu will be on an estimated pitch count of 100-110.
“That, obviously, would depend on how he gets there, if there’s a bunch of battles trying to get there and how he’s pitching,” Mattingly said. “But we don’t feel like he’s lost a ton of arm strength. He’s been through this once before — I think he missed 21 days or something, came back and threw really well.”
The Dodgers had yet to release their playoff roster by late afternoon. The deadline is Friday morning.