The Los Angeles Dodgers made things very simply for Clayton Kershaw in the opening of their NLDS series against the Atlanta Braves, giving him an early lead to protect, something he probably does better than anyone else in the majors.
The Braves had a four run lead by the end of the third inning, and ended up beating the Atlanta Braves 6-1, with Kershaw, who had a 1.83 ERA during the regular season, kicking off the postseason campaign in the best way possible.
Pitching for 7 innings, Kershaw allowed only 3 hits and one run, striking out 12 pitchers along the way, as the Braves were limited to only 5 hits on 31 at bats, with Elliot Johnson doing extremely poorly, striking out three times.
When you have an opposing pitcher on the mound who is as good as Kershaw, there’s not a lot of room for error. He’s the best pitcher in baseball, and he showed it tonight.
On the other end, for the Braves, it was a short and disappointing night for Kris Medlen on the mound. He last four innings, giving up nine hits and five runs, including a two-run homer to Adrian Gonzalez in the third inning with two outs, in what seemed like the play that broke the Braves for the rest of the game.
Kershaw’s lone mistake in the game was Chris Johnson hitting off of him with two outs to allow Freddie Freeman the chance to run past home plate. It only seemed to make Kershaw more focused, even angrier – He struck out the next man at bat to end the inning, and then completed a streak of six consecutive strikeouts to make himself feel dominant once more.
Strikeouts just kind of happen. It’s not something I’m trying to do. I’m just trying to get outs as fast as possible.
The man with so many eyes on him since the start of the season and hardly disappointing through all the time was Yasiel Puig, who got two hits and scored a run while striking out twice in four at bats, continuing the trend of the Dodgers successful days when he does score a run. They are 39-16 this season when Yasiel Puig scores a run and 53-54 when he doesn’t, which includes games he doesn’t play in.
Are the Braves this bad? Probably not. Kershaw is truly the finest pitcher in Baseball when the fastballs are coming at an alarming rate, but the Braves are a deep team, and probably should have had someone other than Medlen kick off the series for them. With Zack Greinke getting the start in game 2, there’s a better chance of seeing a much more even contest, especially with Mike Minor being a significant drop off to what the Dodgers get from Kershaw.