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ARLINGTON, Texas – Those playoff demons apply Clayton Kershaw in all places, from his baseball house of Dodger Stadium, to a stolen-sign ambush in Houston and after all, Thursday night time, to your doorstep of his homeland, the place the surroundings modified however the narrative didn’t.
It’s Kershaw, and it’s October, and so within the 6th inning of Recreation four, Nationwide League Championship Collection, 1-1 tie, a bouncing ball that dribbled off Ronald Acuna Jr.’s bat at 75 mph tucked smartly into an area between the mound and 2nd base. And a Freddie Freeman grounder discovered its means down the first-base line for added bases.
And a supervisor – as soon as, it was once Don Mattingly, now, it is Dave Roberts – sees the buzzards circling and a recent bullpen beckoning and essentially the most unhealthy bat on this collection arising and comes to a decision, no, Kersh is my man, and that is how we can cross down.
And down they went, all over again.
The Dodgers don’t seem to be but lifeless, however they are able to see the 1st tee from right here after a digital must-win Recreation four collapsed beneath the load of six sixth-inning runs, simply 3 charged to Kershaw however the entire weight pertaining to him anyway. The general ranking was once 10-2, Braves, and now Atlanta is one win from the Global Collection.
The Dodgers should win 3 consecutive video games to achieve their 3rd Global Collection in 4 years. If they do not, there will probably be a couple of culprits however only one enduring symbol.
Oh, it adjustments a little. Every so often the digital camera captures Kershaw along with his head in his arms, or staring on the floor, or leaned again on a dugout bench, a vacant expression on his face.
Clayton Kershaw allowed 4 earned runs in 5 innings in Recreation four. (Picture: Tim Heitman, USA TODAY Sports activities)
Thursday night time started with Kershaw, pitching in entrance of substantial friends and family from close by Highland Park, bidding to transport into 5th position all-time in postseason wins, along Roger Clemens, a statistic that can marvel those that think the worst about his playoff efficiency.
Sure, Kershaw has pitched poorly, however he is additionally spun some gemstones and above all, has simply pitched so much within the playoffs: 28 begins, 177 ⅓ innings, 194 strikeouts, a whole season of do-or-die pitches beneath his belt.
It is a lengthy sufficient observe report to assume he’d be impervious to October randomness, nevertheless it all the time turns out to search out him.
In Recreation four, the entire same old components have been in play: Kershaw a tick much less dominant than his common season self, a questionable managerial transfer, a bullpen that infrequently does him postseason favors.
The fork within the highway arrived within the fateful 6th, when Acuna’s scratch hit and Freeman’s go-ahead double would have brought about virtually any supervisor to raise virtually any pitcher. The Braves’ offense is best outdone by way of the Dodgers in virtually each key metric. Kershaw, whose fastball tops out at 90 mph nowadays, was once going through the highest of the order for the 3rd time.
In 2020, that is a veritable five-alarm hearth.
For Roberts, it was once time to persuade right into a blind spot.
“I’m now not going to take Kersh out after a vulnerable floor ball and every other vulnerable floor ball from Freeman,” Roberts mentioned.
“I felt in point of fact just right about Kershaw at that time limit.”
Because the 6th inning started Thursday, no person warmed within the Dodgers bullpen, past Brusdar Graterol loosening a little. It will make sense that Kershaw would face the lefty Freeman, however with Ozuna having smoked a difficult floor ball – grew to become for a double play – and a 422-foot house run off Kershaw, possibly some reduction was once so as.
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Ozuna definitely believed he’d be going through Graterol, specifically after Freeman’s double.
“I spotted, oh no, they may not let him face me,” says Ozuna. “I advised Freddie, let’s do it, as a result of I could be going through Graterol. (Roberts) gave me the chance to stand him once more, and I were given him.”
Certainly he did, smacking a flat slider 109 mph for an RBI double. A one-run lead was once now Three-1 and Kershaw was once performed.
Graterol and Victor Gonzalez would mix to surrender 4 extra hits, burying the Dodgers in a 7-1 hollow.
If this implies the top for the Dodgers, it is only somewhat much less of a intestine punch than their Recreation five Department Collection removal a yr in the past. With his consider in nearer Kenley Jansen waning, Roberts tabbed Kershaw in reduction to report the overall out within the 7th inning in opposition to the Washington Nationals. Kershaw obliged, retiring Adam Eaton to keep a two-run lead.
That are supposed to had been sufficient. However to the marvel of many, Roberts prolonged the uncommon reduction look every other inning. After which it was once bang-bang: House run Anthony Rendon, house run Juan Soto, good-bye lead, hi wintry weather, cue unhappy Kershaw photograph.
This NLCS post-mortem would expose a variety of culprits for a Dodger removal, significantly an inconsistent offense and a bullpen that options few, if any, dependable portions. And Kershaw’s 2020 playoff line – a 2-1 report, a three.32 ERA, 23 strikeouts to 2 walks – belies how issues fell aside Thursday.
One symbol would possibly bear, despite the fact that, truthful or now not.
“He got here out, and 5 innings, one run, he gave us an opportunity to win the 3-hitter,” says Roberts when given the danger to tamp down the general public belief of his lefty. “That narrative couldn’t be farther from the reality.”
Certainly, it is extra advanced than the drive-by fan would care to confess. It additionally by no means turns out to leave.