Whenever Clayton Kershaw pitches there are very high expectations for the future Hall of Famer. He has been so good for so long for the Dodgers. As such, he is probably the best pitcher of this decade.
However, the playoffs have been another story for Kershaw.
The First Inning
The Dodgers lost game 2 of the 2019 National League Divisional Series against the Nationals and it had a familiar Kershaw playoff refrain. For many of us, it all started with the first batter of the game.
Clayton Kershaw's night began with a Trea Turner leadoff double.
Kershaw has allowed a leadoff hit in 5 of his last 6 postseason starts.
— Sarah Langs (@SlangsOnSports) October 5, 2019
Justin Turner absolutely should have gotten that ball….now Kershaw has to work out of an early jam for #Dodgers
— DodgerBluez (@DodgerBluez) October 5, 2019
The hit by Trea Turner was on the first pitch. JT was also playing in to defend against the bunt. The pitch was a 91 MPH fastball that was low and inside. In most cases, Clayton Kershaw likes to get a first pitch fastball for strike one. Turner only hit it 85 MPH but it got passed the drawn in JT. After Adam Eaton popped up a bunt, Kershaw walked Anthony Rendon and hit Juan Soto on a 1-2 pitch.
With the bases loaded the Nationals got their first run on a Howie Kendrick a single to left field. 1-0 Nationals before Kershaw got the last two outs in the top of the first.
I still feel like that first batter Kershaw faced and Turner ground ball he would of had any other time changed the outcome of this whole game….
— Fernando (@NorCalDodger) October 5, 2019
The Second Inning
The second inning began with Kershaw hitting Victor Robles.
And then he hits Robles…Kershaw can just pitch the regular season and pitch out of the bullpen in the postseason
— Jasmine Seymour (@Jazzy_Esq32) October 5, 2019
The pitcher, Stephen Strasburg bunted Robles over to second and Trea Turner followed with a ground out to third for the second out. The next batter was Adam Eaton who is 1 for 9 against Kershaw in the regular season. Eaton proceeded to get a two out/two strike single to make it 2-0 Nationals.
NO. 2 Adam Eaton hits in the SECOND spot in the order.
He drove in the Nationals' SECOND run on a 2-2 COUNT in the 2ND INNING with 2 OUTS in GAME 2 against NO. 22 Clayton Kershaw.
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) October 5, 2019
Anthony Rendon was the next batter. The situation was Eaton on first and two outs. What happened next? Well, see below.
I'm not exactly qualified to tell Clayton Kershaw how to pitch, but this probably isn't the best spot to leave a fastball to Anthony Rendon! pic.twitter.com/FbRdTuYL5b
— Alan (@AlanCole01) October 5, 2019
Kersh's fastball is down to 90.4 mph . . . 42 pitches and only 2 curve balls . . . recipe for disasterhttps://t.co/XPnQ7rjEYT
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) October 5, 2019
By this time Kershaw had abandoned his curveball after throwing it only twice in the first inning. Hitters were able to sit on 87-91 MPH velocity for either a fastball or a slider (it’s more of a cutter). The pitches are so similar in velocity that he really needs that low 70s MPH curveball to keep them off balance. There is also the possibility that he was tipping his pitches.
After Adam Eaton singled home Victor Robles, Anthony Rendon launched a double off the wall. It's 3-0 Nationals. Clayton Kershaw has allowed 7 of the 12 batters he's faced to reach base.
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) October 5, 2019
After just two innings the Nationals were already up 3-0 and playoff Kershaw had made another appearance on social media.
Clayton Kershaw. Regular season vs Playoffs pic.twitter.com/zTBxvpwq6z
— Isabella (@Isabell56907461) October 5, 2019
To be fair, Kershaw has had quite a few good to great playoff appearances as Jon Weisman points out below.
Yellow, just shy of orange. Basically, tonight was a repeat of Kershaw's last 2018 playoff start (WS Game 5), except that he won't pitch the seventh inning tonight.
I don't really complain about three runs in six innings in the Year of the Home Run. https://t.co/Mq8lTNxRZQ
— Jon Weisman (@jonweisman) October 5, 2019
When compared to Kershaw’s regular season history it does look bad in some cases. Of course, the spotlight is a lot brighter during the postseason. If he just pitches decently in game 5 of the 2017 World Series the Dodgers win. He had been excellent in game 1 and was stellar in relief of game 7. But, what do we all remember? Just like that one bad game he had in the 2017 post-season, we remember his worst appearances.
The Dodgers Lose
Game 2 against the Nationals brought out all sorts of bad thoughts about previous Dodger playoff failures.
@Dodgers recipe for playoff “success”:
1. Kershaw give up more runs than normal
2. Bellinger strike out most at-bats
3. Everyone but Turner swing for the fences every at-bat until striking out
4. Leave as many RISP as possible
5. Repeat until eliminated
— Liddle' Monarch B. Grizzly (@GLDNST8) October 5, 2019
I know I went on my own rant. Like most other Dodger fans, the loses seem to bring out a lot more thoughts that the wins do.
Thoughts on the game tonight:
1. Kershaw needs to throw his curve, even when it doesn’t seem to be working. Hitters can sit on the 87-91 MPH velocity.
2. Pollock does not have a good enough eye to bat in the top 3 of the lineup. Give me Beaty next game.
— 10 wins to go (SD Dodger) (@SDDodger) October 5, 2019
Clayton Kershaw ended up pitching much better after the first two innings. He did not give up any more runs and only gave up two hits in his final four innings. I don’t think it is any coincidence that he started throwing his curveball again at the beginning of the third inning. Even if the curve isn’t very good, he still needs to keep throwing it. The curve is a feel pitch and it can take some time for it to come together. When he is just relying on the fastball and slider, the hitters tee-off on him.
@TheRealJHair how does kershaw think he’s going to get away with 92-91 fastball. 89 slider and NEVER throw a curve!! That’s his best pitch
— Thomas Amidon (@amidontime) October 5, 2019
The Dodgers did put up a fight and were one or two decent at bats from tying the game in the 9th. However, it wasn’t their night.
I'm proud of how the Dodgers finished.
how they started? i'll tell you after a couple of more drinks.
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) October 5, 2019
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) October 5, 2019
Clayton Kershaw now has 9 wins against 11 losses in the playoffs with an ERA over 4.30. He’s also been the victim of some horrible bullpens which has cost him quite a few extra earned runs. As many have stated this wasn’t just Clayton Kershaw’s fault.
Belli and Seager gotta figure it out.
— Vincent Samperio (@VinceSamperio) October 5, 2019
The Dodgers striking out 17 times is an embarrassment. Clayton Kershaw giving up 3 runs in 6 innings is mediocre. Let’s call it what it is, a team loss. However, in the passage of time too many will blame Kershaw more than he should be blamed. Kershaw has provided the Dodgers many great moments and the one we all crave has him holding up the World Series trophy. Like any pitcher, he will need some help to get there.