Clayton Kershaw’s 3-1 slider to Luis Urias sailed high, a rare mistake by the distinguished left-hander. It was the eighth inning, there was one out, the Dodgers led by three, and Kershaw’s pitch count was up to 88. He looked toward the third-base dugout, made eye contact with manager Dave Roberts and implored him to stay where he was. Roberts sent pitching coach Mark Prior to the mound instead then watched Kershaw pick off Urias and strike out the next batter, David Freita, on five pitches to end his outing appropriately.
“This was a fun night,” Kershaw said moments later.
It was so much more than that.
Clayton Kershaw last night:
24 swings and misses against, the most by a Dodgers pitcher in the playoffs since Tim Belcher in 1988 (also 24).
13 K, the most ever by a pitcher in a potential series-clinching game (Patrick Corbin,12 in 2019 and Jim Palmer, 12 in 1970) pic.twitter.com/nWry6qfsqL
— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 2, 2020
It was eight scoreless innings against a Milwaukee Brewers team desperate to keep its season alive. It was 13 strikeouts by a man who 12 months earlier no longer seemed to possess swing-and-miss stuff. It was quite possibly the best postseason start of Kershaw’s illustrious career, a gratifying sign for a Dodgers team poised to win it all.
“It was just fun to sit back and watch him make pitches,” Roberts said after a 3-0 win in Thursday night’s Game 2 of the wild-card series eliminated the Brewers and pushed the Dodgers to a five-game National League Division Series.
Kershaw generated 24 swings and misses, his most since June 2016, according to ESPN Stats & Information. All 13 strikeouts — a postseason career high — came on breaking balls, the most since his 2014 no-hitter and the most by any pitcher in the postseason over the past 20 years.
Through the first four innings, before the Dodgers’ offense finally broke through, Kershaw matched an electric Brandon Woodruff pitch for pitch. After Woodruff folded, Kershaw seemed to get stronger. All told, he allowed four baserunners.
“It was just a Kershaw outing,” Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. “It was awesome.”
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