For all his greatness, which now includes an MVP Award, three Cy Youngs in the last four years, and an unprecedented four-consecutive ERA titles, there’s one hurdle Clayton Kershaw has yet to clear.
After putting together a historic season in 2014, Kershaw was set for another postseason date with the St. Louis Cardinals — this time in the NLDS. The same Cardinals who ended Kershaw’s and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ season with a decisive win in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS.
Despite the momentum Kershaw carried into the 2014 postseason, the Cardinals twice defeated him in the NLDS, including Game 4, which eliminated the Dodgers from the postseason. During his MVP and Cy Young acceptance speech on Saturday, Kershaw ended it with a thank you for the Cardinals:
My last thank you goes to the St. Louis Cardinals. Thank you for reminding me that you’re never as good as you think you are.”
In his career, Kershaw is 5-5 with a 3.46 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 14 starts against the Cardinals. Kershaw’s 3.46 ERA is the second-highest against team he’s made at least five lifetime starts against. The Cardinals have been an even big thorn in his side during the postseason, evident in the table below:
|2009 NLDS||0-0||2.70||1.50||6.2||2013 NLCS||0-2||6.30||1.50||10.0||2014 NLDS||0-2||7.82||1.11||12.2|
The lone postseason game the Dodgers defeated the Cardinals in which Kershaw started was in 2009, when he earned a no-decision. Truth be told, Kershaw’s troubles against the Cardinals in October are tied to his surrendering one big inning to his Midwest nemesis.
In Game 2 of the 2013 NLCS, Kershaw was on the wrong end of a 1-0 game as the Dodgers only mustered five hits against Michael Wacha and four Cardinal relievers who followed. Kershaw then held the Cardinals scoreless through the first two innings of Game 6 before a Matt Carpenter one-out double sparked a four-run inning in the third and never looked back.
Although Kershaw gave up a solo home run in the first inning of Game 1 in the 2014 NLDS, he then blanked the Cardinals over the next four innings before giving up another run in the sixth. The Cardinals then erupted for eight runs in the seventh to overcome a 6-2 deficit and further added to Kershaw’s frustration.
With the Dodgers on the brink of elimination in Game 4, Kershaw was handed the ball on short rest and appeared to be on his way towards erasing the unpleasant memory from the year before. That quickly changed in the seventh inning with Matt Adams’ three-run home run that proved to be the difference in the Cardinals’ 3-2 win.
After his Game 1 loss in 2014, there were rumblings the Cardinals were stealing signs and/or noticed something in Kershaw’s delivery, which allowed them to decipher his pitch selection. The Cardinals denied the claim, and so too did Kershaw and A.J. Ellis.
While Kershaw was able to poke fun at his failures, it’s something he’s likely well-aware of and intent on changing if the two teams are to meet again in October.