Dave Roberts’ decision hangs over Clayton Kershaw NLCS disappointment

The Clayton Kershaw playoff narrative isn’t going away, and Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and his bullpen didn’t help the cause Thursday night.

The Dodgers ace turned in five strong innings Thursday night before a sixth inning in which Roberts may have stuck with him too long on the way to a 10-2 loss to the Braves in Game 4 of the NLCS.

Kershaw, whose start was pushed back from Game 2 because of back spasms, had tossed five innings of one-run ball before failing to record an out in the sixth and eventually being charged with four runs as the Braves took a 3-1 lead in the series.

“I just thought Kershaw was throwing the baseball really well, and there was no reason,” Roberts told reporters when asked about not going to his bullpen earlier. “I felt really good about it.”

Kershaw took the mound to begin the sixth inning in a 1-1 game and gave up a leadoff infield single to Ronald Acuña Jr. on a weak ground ball that just got over Kershaw’s head. While rookie Brusdar Graterol had begun to warm up in the Dodgers bullpen, Freddie Freeman ripped a double to right field to give the Braves a 2-1 lead. Roberts stuck with Kershaw to face Marcell Ozuna, who had homered earlier in the game, and he connected for a double to the gap to put the Braves up 3-1.

“I’m not going to take Clayton out after a weak ground ball and another ground ball off the bat of Freeman,” Roberts said. “I felt really good with Clayton at that point in time.”

Roberts also claimed Ozuna’s double “wasn’t hit very hard,” although it had an exit velocity of 108 mph, according to ESPN.

Roberts finally turned to Graterol after Ozuna’s double. The flamethrower retired the first batter he faced before adding gasoline to the fire and giving up three straight hits as the Braves pushed the lead to 6-1. Victor Gonzalez came on next and gave up another run before finally ending the nightmare inning.

By the end of it, Kershaw’s career playoff ERA had grown to 4.31 ERA with an 11-12 record in 35 games. It’s now up to the left-handers teammates to give Kershaw another chance to change the conversation about his postseason track record.

“He came out, and five innings, one run, he gave us a chance to win the baseball game,” Roberts said. “That narrative couldn’t be further from the truth.”

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