Up until the seventh inning of Game 1 of the National League Division Series, Clayton Kershaw spent the majority of his time on the mound pitching out of his windup. Through six innings of Friday’s game, Kershaw had allowed just two hits — both solo home runs — and the Los Angeles Dodgers held a 6-2 lead.
Matt Holliday led off the seventh inning with a single and it was followed by three more with Matt Adams’ scoring Holliday and leaving the bases full with no outs. Kershaw battled back to get a strikeout, allowed an RBI single, then recorded his second strikeout of the inning.
Then Matt Carpenter delivered the knockout punch as he worked an eight-pitch at-bat that ended with a bases-clearing double to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead, and left Kershaw and the Dodgers reeling.
Carpenter was responsible for one of the home runs Kershaw gave up and his success against the Dodger ace can be traced back to a similar at-bat he held in Game 6 of the 2013 National League Championship Series that finished on a rally-starting double.
Given the sudden change in the Cardinals’ fortunes, it led to talk of Kershaw tipping pitches and/or the Cardinals stealing signs from second base. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, while A.J. Ellis acknowledged the Cardinals are no strangers to attempting to steal signs, he didn’t believe that to be the case Friday:
We know the Cardinals are always looking for that competitive advantage. We appreciate that about them. They compete even when they are on the bases. We try to do our best to mix things up, be unpredictable, try to set up late to not tip off anything. I don’t think we can credit anything that they did to stealing. Just give them all the credit for the way they swung the bat.”
As for the man who was hit hard yet again by his biggest postseason nemesis, Kershaw shot down the idea he tipped any pitches:
I think that discredits their team. It’s just a cop-out.”
The loss dropped Kershaw to 1-4 with a 5.20 ERA in postseason play. In a year where he set several Major-League benchmarks, he now has the undesirable honor of being the first starting pitcher in MLB history to allow seven earned runs in consecutive postseason starts.