Kershaw Dazzles as Dodgers Eliminate Brewers

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Dodgers 3, Brewers 0
NL Wild Card, Game Two

A missed chance at a double play opened the door for the Los Angeles Dodgers to score. Masterful pitching by future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw kept the Milwaukee Brewers from doing the same. When the dust settled Thursday night in Los Angeles, Kershaw had pitched eight innings of scoreless, three-hit ball, striking out 13, as the Dodgers beat the Brewers, 3-0, to take the best-of-three Wild Card Series.

Brewers starter Brandon Woodruff also pitched brilliantly, retiring the first eight hitters he faced. When the ninth hitter – catcher Austin Barnes – singled in the bottom of the third, Woodruff struck out the next hitter, right fielder Mookie Betts. He then pitched a 1-2-3 fourth, striking out the last two. After four, Woodruff had allowed only one hit while walking none and striking out eight.

Meanwhile, Kershaw had allowed two baserunners in the first four. One came from a two-out single in the first by first baseman Jedd Gyorko. The other came from a single by third baseman Luis Urias to lead off the third. Kershaw had not walked anyone up to that point and had struck out five. Brewers second baseman Keston Hiura singled to start the fifth and advanced to second on a slow grounder to second by Urias, the next hitter. But Kershaw ended the threat when he struck out the next hitter, catcher Jacob Cunningham.

The Fateful Inning

That was the only time all game that the Brewers had a runner in scoring position. Entering the bottom of the fifth, the Dodgers had not had a runner advance to scoring position yet. When DH Will Smith struck out to lead off the inning, Woodruff had struck out nine while allowing only one hit. He looked just as unstoppable as Kershaw.

Then center fielder Cody Bellinger – the 2019 NL MVP – dumped a single to center and advanced to second when second baseman Chris Taylor followed with a single up the middle. Left fielder AJ Pollock, up next, hit a rocket on the ground to third. Urias scooped it up and stepped on the bag for one, but his throw to first was in the dirt, and Taylor and Pollock were both safe.

Dodgers Make Brewers Pay

Giving any team an extra out is a bad idea, but giving one to an offense like that of the Dodgers is a recipe for disaster. Barnes dug in and worked the count to 1-2. Woodruff then threw a fastball that was inches off the outside corner for ball two, but he vehemently disagreed with the call of plate umpire Quinn Wolcott. Three pitches later, Barnes sent a single up the middle, scoring Taylor from second to break the deadlock. Betts, up next, drove the knife deeper into the figurative heart of the Brewers when he ripped a double to the left-field corner. Both runners scored, giving the Dodgers a commanding 3-0 lead.

Brewers manager Craig Counsell pulled Woodruff and brought in ace reliever Josh Hader. As Woodruff left the field, he yelled f-bombs at the plate umpire, drawing an ejection. He said after the game that he watched the disputed pitch on the app on his phone. “It was just a hair off,” he admitted, “but in the moment, Notty (Nottingham) made it look really, really good, and in my mind, it was a strike.” However, he refused to blame Wolcott for the Barnes single, saying, “I needed to move on and make a good pitch, and I wasn’t able to do that.” Upon entering the game, Hader struck out shortstop Corey Seager to end the inning.

Dodgers, Brewers Trade Zeros

The 3-0 score seemed to further energize Kershaw. For the Brewers, it seemed to completely take the wind out of their sails, at least offensively. Kershaw struck out the side in the sixth then pitched a 1-2-3 seventh, striking out one. In the eighth, he struck out the first batter, right fielder Tyrone Taylor, who started in place of the injured Ryan Braun. Urias walked – Kershaw’s only free pass of the night – but got picked off. Kershaw then struck out reserve catcher David Freitas, running the strikeout total to 13.

Hader pitched a 1-2-3 sixth for the Brewers before giving way to Adrian Houser in the seventh. Taylor hit a one-out single – his second hit of the game – but the next hitter, pinch-hitter Joc Pederson – grounded into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. The Dodgers also managed a baserunner in the eighth when Betts drew a one-out walk, but that did not amount to anything.

Closing It Out

Right-hander Brusdar Graterol took the mound in the ninth, shooting for his first career save. Garcia led off with a single. Yelich, up next, hit a grounder to second. Kike Hernandez, who came on as a defensive sub in the eighth, fired to second for one. Yelich, hustling up the line, beat Seager’s relay to first by the slimmest of margins. This meant that the tying run was still on deck as pinch-hitter Daniel Vogelbach dug in. He and the next hitter – pinch-hitter Ben Gamel – each flied to deep left, sealing the game for the Dodgers.

Kershaw earned the win, the 10th of his postseason career. Woodruff took the loss, while Graterol earned the save. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said about Kershaw, “It was fun to sit back and watch him compete – go pitch-for-pitch with Woodruff, whom I really thought competes so well – I love watching him – but Kersh was determined tonight. To see him go eight innings tonight and throw up a bunch of zeros…it was just an outstanding performance.”

Making History

Kershaw, as mentioned earlier, struck out 13, ranking third all-time on the Dodgers list for strikeouts in a single postseason game. Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax struck out 15 in Game One of the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees. Carl Erskine – called “Oisk” in reference to the accents of the Brooklyn fans – struck out 14 Yankees in Game Three of the 1953 World Series.

Kershaw also holds fourth place on the list and is tied for fifth. He struck out 12 Atlanta Braves in Game One of the 2013 Division Series and struck out 11 opponents three separate times. The three times were Game One of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros, Game Four of the 2016 Division Series against the Washington Nationals, and Game One of the 2015 Division Series against the New York Mets. Don Drysdale and Don Newcombe have also struck out 11 in a postseason game. Drysdale struck out 11 Minnesota Twins in Game Four of the 1965 World Series, and Newcombe struck out 11 Yankees in Game One of the 1949 World Series.

Counsell praised Kershaw after the game, saying, “He was exceptional today. His slider was as good as I remember it. The swing-and-miss on the slider was impressive. It was late, it’s hard movement, and it comes out just like his fastball. He’s got it going really (well).” About Woodruff, Counsell added, “Woody was exceptional. He was going strong and was giving us exactly what I thought we needed to have a chance to win the game.”

The Dodgers advance to the Division Series, where they will face the winner of the San Diego Padres and St. Louis Cardinals. Game One will be at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas on Tuesday.

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