We blame Buck Showalter for all of this.
Ever since the Baltimore Orioles manager failed to use stud closer Zach Britton in the American League Wild Card Game, postseason managers have used their bullpens and closers in increasingly unconventional ways.
It’ll be hard to top what Dave Roberts did Thursday night, though. With his team clinging to a one-run lead over the Washington Nationals in Game 5 of the National League Division Series, the Los Angeles Dodgers manager called on shutdown closer Kenley Jansen — in the sixth inning.
Jansen gave an admirable effort, throwing a career-high 51 pitches, working into the ninth inning with one out. Who did Roberts turn to after that? None other than ace starter Clayton Kershaw, who threw 110 pitches just two days prior in his Game 4 start (on short rest, no less).
It was a gutsy move by Roberts, but it worked: Kershaw retired nemesis Daniel Murphy and pinch hitter Wilmer Difo to clinch a 4-3 win and earn the Dodgers a date with the Chicago Cubs in the National League Championship Series.
Kershaw’s save, of course, had some historical significance: It was the left-hander’s first-ever save at the major league level, and marked his first relief appearance in seven years.
But Kershaw has saved a game before: in 2006 while playing for the Gulf Coast League Dodgers against, fittingly, the GCL Nationals. But here’s where things get wacky:
Yup, you read that right. The Dodgers closer, whom Kershaw relieved Thursday night, came up as a catcher, and didn’t convert to pitching until 2009. There’s more, too:
We couldn’t make this stuff up if we tried.
Thumbnail photo via Brad Mills/USA TODAY Sports Images