Clayton Kershaw allowed four home runs, but the Los Angeles Dodgers held on to defeat the Arizona Diamondbacks, 9-5, in Game One of the National League Division Series on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.
A.J. Pollock, J.D. Martinez, Ketel Marte, and Jeff Mathis all homered off the three-time Cy Young Award winner, but Kershaw was able to limit the damage to just solo shots.
“No excuses, I gave up too many home runs tonight,” Kershaw said after the game. “Definitely the intensity of playoff games, there is more riding on each pitch. Mentally, for sure, you try to focus that much harder every single pitch and just let the moment try to take over.”
The knack on the former MVP has always been his performance in the postseason. Entering the game, in 15 career playoff starts, Kershaw is 4-7 with an ERA of 4.55.
Kershaw has still yet to master how to extend his dominant regular season starts into the postseason, but his teammates had his back in Game 1, making sure it didn’t matter.
“You couldn’t ask for a better start. I think we really had quality at-bats the whole night all the way through,” said Kershaw of the Dodgers’ offense. “All the guys just doing what they do all year. JT is as clutch as they come and put a great swing on a ball.”
Justin Turner broke the game open with a three-run home run in the top of the first inning off Snakes starter Taijuan Walker for his third career postseason home run.
“When you get in those situations and they’ve got to make pitches, you just try not to do too much and make sure you get a good pitch,” Turner said of his home run in the first inning. “Luckily, I didn’t miss it.”
Walker allowed a total of four runs in the inning after surrendering an RBI double to Yasiel Puig, and needed 48 pitches to finish the frame in his first taste of the postseason.
Needless to say, he did not return for the second inning, making his start the shortest postseason start against the Dodgers since Ron Darling also pitched just one inning for the New York Mets in Game 7 of the 1988 NLCS.
“I have no regrets whatsoever,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said of starting Walker in Game 1. “He was a clear-cut choice. We held him back off the Wild Card roster for the potential of this happening. He just never got into a rhythm.”
Pollock put Arizona on the board in the top of the third inning when he smoked a 93 MPH fastball from Kershaw into the pavilion in left-center.
AJ Pollock solo shot pic.twitter.com/kfefV7PQrq
— Dodgers (@DodgersVideos) October 7, 2017
The Dodgers were able to add three important insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth as Corey Seager, Turner, and Puig all added RBI singles off Zack Godley.
Godley was considered to be the starter for Game 1 of this series by Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo, but instead came into the game in relief, likely making him unavailable for Game 4 in Phoenix on Tuesday.
“He gave us five good innings,” Lovullo said of Godley. “He did enough to get us back into the game. Gave us a chance to play catch up, and that’s what we ask our relievers to do. It was a new role for him.”
With Walker and Godley out for that game, Lovullo could start left-hander Patrick Corbin in Game 4.
Signs of fatigue started to show in the sixth inning as Kershaw allowed a solo shot down the left field line to Martinez, and then back-to-back homers by Marte and Mathis in the bottom of the seventh.
“I just didn’t have much left,” admitted Kershaw following the game. “Hopefully, when you give up hits, maybe one or two stay in the ballpark. But tonight it didn’t seem like that was going to happen. Obviously a frustrating way to end it, but thankfully, we had a big lead.”
Ketel Marte & Jeff Mathis hit 2nd set of back-to-back HRs in @Dbacks postseason history (Ryan Roberts/Chris Young in ’11 #NLDS vs. Brewers). pic.twitter.com/Y8rNB2duBT
— FOX Sports Arizona (@FOXSPORTSAZ) October 7, 2017
Kershaw (1-0), allowed four runs on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts in 6 and 1/3 innings of work. He left with the lead, but his seventh inning struggles continue to hang over his postseason legacy like an impenetrable cloud.
Despite the four home runs allowed, Kershaw earned his first ever postseason victory at Dodger Stadium in his career, spanning over 16 playoff starts.
“As great of a pitcher and career that he’s had, that’s surprising,” said Roberts after hearing it was Kershaw’s first postseason win at Dodger Stadium. “I’m glad that I was pat of his first postseason home win.”
Turner finished the game with five RBI, tying a Dodgers postseason record shared by Pedro Guerrero and Davey Lopes.
“This is what we’ve been waiting for all year,” Turner said after the game. “In the playoffs, your numbers don’t matter. It’s about doing whatever it takes to win a ballgame.”
Turner has reached base safely in 16 of his last 17 postseason games, and is batting .357 with nine runs, six doubles, one triple, three homers and 17 RBI in that span.
Brandon Morrow recorded four outs in relief, passing the baton to closer Kenley Jansen who closed the door on the D-backs in the ninth inning.
“He’s earned these high-leverage opportunities,” said Roberts of Morrow who started the year on a minor league contract and rose through the ranks to become the Dodgers’ setup man. “He’s one of the leaders in the pen. So it’s a great story, and he’s got big stuff. I’m happy he’s on our side.”
The Dodgers tied a postseason record with two triples in the game.
The Dodgers have never faced a divisional opponent in the postseason since the Wild Card format was introduced in 1995, and snapped a six-game losing streak against the Snakes dating back to Aug. 29.
Sandy Koufax, Tommy Lasorda, Will Ferrell, Rob Lowe, Tom Hanks and Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully were just some of the celebrities in attendance for Game 1.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is a marquee matchup of left-handers as Rich Hill takes the mound against All-Star Robbie Ray. First pitch is scheduled for 6:08PM PST.
Published at 11:17 PM PDT on Oct 6, 2017 | Updated at 12:51 AM PDT on Oct 7, 2017