Dodgers beat Atlanta Braves 6-1 as Clayton Kershaw strikes out 12 in NLDS opener

first_imgKershaw threw seven innings in the Dodgers’ 6-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves, allowing one run and striking out 12 — the most by a Dodgers pitcher in the playoffs since Sandy Koufax in 1963. It was the first postseason win of Kershaw’s career. The Dodgers hope it isn’t his last. They lead the best-of-five National League Division Series 1-0, with Game 2 today at Turner Field.The Braves’ home-field advantage is gone now — the Dodgers can win both their home games Sunday and Monday, if needed, to clinch the series — though it didn’t matter much in Game 1.“I thought offensively we had a nice game plan against Kershaw, we just couldn’t get the base hit,” Atlanta Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “We were patient at the plate, we were keeping the pitch count up, and he never gave us an opportunity. We had some people on base and then he made some pitches.” Kershaw thought he had a nice game plan, too. As great pitchers sometimes do, Kershaw had to abandon his.“My fastball command wasn’t great all night long,” he said. “You obviously don’t want to walk three guys, especially when you’ve got that big lead. But it worked out, thankfully.”Relying more on his slider and curveball, Kershaw got the Braves to swing at 29 breaking balls and make contact once — a ground ball comebacker by Justin Upton in the fourth inning.“It was apparent the breaking stuff was going to be more efficient as the game went on,” Ellis said.The Dodgers knocked Braves starter Kris Medlen out in the fifth inning.After striking out the side in the first inning, the right-hander allowed five runs over the next three frames, spoiling the early promise of a pitcher’s duel.In the second inning, Yasiel Puig advanced from first base to third on a single by Juan Uribe, then scored the Dodgers’ first run on a sacrifice fly by Skip Schumaker. The first of two doubles by Ellis — a line drive to left field that fell under the glove of a diving Evan Gattis — drove in Uribe to give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead. Adrian Gonzalez hit the Dodgers’ only home run, a two-run shot to center field in the third inning to make it 4-0.Mark Ellis’ single off Medlen in the fourth inning drove in A.J. Ellis to give Kershaw a 5-0 lead. That was more than enough support for a pitcher who received the lowest run support of any Dodgers starter (3.79 per game) during the regular season.Kershaw’s 12 strikeouts broke Chad Billingsley’s 5-year-old record for the most by a Dodgers pitcher in the NLDS. Only Sandy Koufax, who struck out 15 Yankees in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series, had more strikeouts in a playoff game since the Dodgers moved to Los Angeles.Kershaw’s six consecutive strikeouts were the most by a Dodger in October since Tim Belcher’s seven in a row in Game 2 of the 1988 NLCS.Chris Johnson drove in Freddie Freeman with a single in the fourth inning for the Braves’ only run of the game. With runners on first and third and two outs, Kershaw struck out Andrelton Simmons on a 3-2 slider to end that threat. Atlanta only got one other runner as far as second base against Kershaw. The Braves made Kershaw work, however, and his 124 pitches were the most he’s thrown in a game since May 14. Brian Wilson pitched a scoreless eighth inning and Kenley Jansen survived a leadoff walk and a two-out single to toss a scoreless ninth.Prior to the game, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said that Kershaw was his projected Game 1 starter for months, if not years.“Clayton has earned that, from the way he’s pitched from the start to the finish, not only this year but the last two years,” Mattingly said. “It’s really been the same guy, just getting better all the time, it seems like.”Kershaw hadn’t pitched in the postseason since 2009, and he hadn’t pitched well enough in five career postseason appearances to win any of the games. His career playoff ERA prior to Thursday was 5.87.Instead, Kershaw looked like the pitcher who led all pitchers in the 2013 season with a 1.83 ERA.Gonzalez and Mark Ellis finished 2 for 5. A.J. Ellis and Puig finished 2 for 4 as the Dodgers collected 11 hits — at least one by every starting position player other than center fielder Skip Schumaker.Puig also threw out Gattis from right field as the Braves’ rookie wandered from first base, turning a routine fly ball into a double play to end the second inning. ATLANTA >> Clayton Kershaw’s zone is a notoriously lonely place. Before each game he pitches, the Dodgers’ ace lies down on a trainer’s table. He sits alone on the bench between innings. His windup, his arm slot, his release — all of these things seem immune to occupational distractions like tomahawk chops and playoff pressure and the potential reward of a nine-figure contract in the coming months.Such was the case Thursday in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.“He was the same Clayton,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It’s comforting for me when I walk in the trainer’s room and he’s sleeping on the table.”center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img

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