Dodgers’ World Series push starts with pesky Diamondbacks

At face value, it appears to be another typical Los Angeles Dodgers playoff series ahead, with Clayton Kershaw starting in Game 1 of the National League Division Series Saturday against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Yet this matchup promises to be something new entirely. In the playoffs for the 11th consecutive year, but with one 2020 World Series title to show for it, perhaps it was time for the Dodgers to unveil something different. Los Angeles will employ a group-effort pitching strategy, with shorter starts, possible bullpen games and a “piggy-back” plan where two or more pitchers throw multiple innings each. While it sounds like a full buy-in on next-level analytics, the Dodgers instead are operating out of necessity because of injury, performance uncertainty and the arrival of several rookie pitchers getting their first taste of the playoffs. “That’s where we’re at as a team (and) I think that’s a great thing, I really do,” Kershaw said. “As far as embracing it or not, I think everybody’s in the mindset that we just want to help this team win a World Series. And so however that looks, whatever (manager Dave Roberts) thinks is best for us to go out there and pitch, that’s what we’re going to do.” Since returning from a shoulder injury in August, Kershaw has been limited to five innings in all but one of his eight outings, and that was 5 1/3 innings in his regular-season finale. He has not thrown more than 84 pitches in any of those starts. Those figure to be his limits moving forward, with the Dodgers’ bullpen stepping into the fray. If history holds, the Dodgers like their chances Saturday with Kershaw posting a 22-12 record and a 2.73 ERA in 44 career regular-season starts against Arizona. There won’t be any shuffling of the deck on offense, with the Dodgers led by four 100-RBI performers in Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, J.D. Martinez and Max Muncy. Betts, Freeman, Martinez and Will Smith were All-Stars. An impressive group in Arizona is set to announce its arrival, led by NL Rookie of the Year favorite Corbin Carroll, who is getting the biggest stage to show off his impressive blend of speed and power. Carroll hit 25 home runs with 54 stolen bases in his first full season, then took the wild-card round by storm when he went 4-for-7 with a double, home run and two RBIs in a two-game sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers. Even more youth will be served by the Diamondbacks, who lost 110 games as recently as 2021 and haven’t won a postseason contest since 2011. Outfielder Alek Thomas, catcher Gabriel Moreno and infielder Geraldo Perdomo all have made an impact. “I’ll give them their props,” Carroll said of the Dodgers, according to “You know, they’re a great team. Just a great lineup, good pitching, but you know, we’ve played them all year, we know what they are, we know what they’re not. You know, I wouldn’t count us out.”