Talk about postseason pressure.
The best pitcher in baseball, with his team's season on the line, trying to shake off a poor playoff history against a lineup that's had his number in October.
On the road. On short rest.
With the legacy of Sandy Koufax looming in the background, and the hopes of a $256 million roster riding on one left arm as the Los Angeles Dodgers pursue their first pennant in 26 years.
Those are the stakes for Clayton Kershaw when he takes the ball Tuesday with Los Angeles trailing the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 in their best-of-five NL Division Series.
Facing elimination at Busch Stadium for the second consecutive postseason, the Dodgers turn to Kershaw on three days' rest in Game 4. Shelby Miller makes his first playoff start for the Cardinals, one win from a fourth straight trip to the NL Championship Series.
The Cardinals finished off Los Angeles in six games in the NLCS last fall, knocking out Kershaw in the fifth inning of a 9-0 blowout in the final game.
And in the opener of this series last Friday, the left-hander squandered a five-run lead during a 10-9 loss that left him 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in his postseason career.
Kershaw was 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA this season and is a heavy favorite to win his third NL Cy Young Award in four years. His perennial excellence has drawn comparisons to Koufax's dominant run five decades ago, which included the Hall of Famer tossing a three-hit shutout for Los Angeles on two days' rest to win Game 7 of the 1965 World Series against Minnesota.
Kershaw pitched on three days' rest against Atlanta in the Division Series last year, allowing two unearned runs over six innings in the Game 4 clincher.
"Anytime we put Clayton Kershaw on the mound, we feel pretty good," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Monday. "That being said, we're in a tough game, we're in St. Louis."
ALSO ON DECK
The Giants will try to finish off the Nationals in the NL Division Series for the second straight day after a Game 3 loss at home Monday cut their lead to 2-1 in the best-of-five series.
San Francisco right-hander Ryan Vogelsong takes a stellar postseason record — 3-0 with a 1.09 ERA in four starts — into the game against a Nationals team that has batted .280 against him, with a .456 slugging percentage.
Denard Span is 5 for 13 with two doubles and a triple against Vogelsong. But slugger Bryce Harper, who has two homers in the series, is 1 for 8 with four strikeouts.
Nationals two-time All-Star Gio Gonzalez has not fared as well in the postseason. In two starts, both in 2012, he's allowed five runs in 10 innings and walked 11.
St. Louis third baseman Matt Carpenter on Monday became the first player in major league history to hit a home run and a double in three straight postseason games.
Carpenter, the All-Star leadoff man who had eight homers during the regular season, is 6 for 12 with seven RBIs in three playoff games against the Dodgers.
"This is when it matters. This is when it's fun. I told somebody the other day, I would take this season I had this year and do what I'm doing in the postseason 10 out of 10. That's why you play," Carpenter said. "Hopefully we can keep riding this out."
To put his power surge in perspective, Carpenter's six extra-base hits in the playoffs are more than Washington had in the first three games of its NLDS against San Francisco. The Nationals hit two doubles and three homers.
San Francisco has six extra-base hits in a series that has produced just 13 total runs.
QUOTE OF THE DAY
"This game is very humbling. People don't care about what you've done in the past. It's, 'What have you done for me lately?' People turn on you really fast and I know that." — Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw on starting Game 4 of the NLDS on short rest after giving up eight runs to St. Louis in a series-opening loss.