2023 MLB playoffs recap: Diamondbacks light up Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers, win Game 1

LOS ANGELES The Dodgers, who cruised to the NL West title during the regular season, finishing 16 games ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks, now find themselves in a fight for their lives just to get out of the division series.

They not only got ambushed by the Diamondbacks, 11-2, on Saturday night with Clayton Kershaw hammered for six runs in just ⅓ of an inning, but they got shut down by Merrill Kelly.

Yes, the same Merrill Kelly who entered the game with an 0-11 career record and 5.49 ERA against the Dodgers, including an 0-5 record and 7.03 ERA at Dodger Stadium.

Kelly, given a 6-0 lead before he stepped on the mound, absolutely cruised, yielding just three hits in 6⅓ shutout innings.

Now, after a day off Sunday, the Dodgers will have to beat D-backs ace Zac Gallen on Monday to avoid going to Phoenix down 0-2 and facing elimination at Chase Field.

Yet, on this night, the entire focus was on Kershaw and his future.

Kershaw, 34, hasn’t divulged whether he’ll retire after this season, waiting until the off-season to discuss with his family whether he wants to return, but a night like this could tip the scales.

— Bob Nightengale

Dodgers finally get on the board

The Dodgers averted the shutout in the eighth inning on a triple by Will Smith that brought home Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, who both walked. The Diamondbacks still lead 11-2.

Diamondbacks go to 11

Arizona tacked on another run in the eighth as Tommy Pham went yard on a ball that sneaked over the right field fence near the foul pole.

Alek Thomas wins epic duel, gives Diamondbacks 10-0 lead

The Diamondbacks finally got to double digits in the seventh inning when Alek Thomas launched their third homer of the game, a solo shot off Michael Grove. Thomas' homer emphatically capped a 14 pitch at-bat that saw him foul off 11 balls.

The Dodgers have been held in check by D-backs starter Merrill Kelly, who has given up just three hits and one walk in the first six innings. He sits at 82 pitches.

Diamondbacks piling on, up 9-0 on Dodgers

It's 9-0 Diamondbacks as we head to the bottom of the second inning. After Corbin Carroll opened the top of the second with a home run the D-backs tacked on two more runs, courtesy of a Lourdes Gurriel Jr. double and an Evan Longoria sac fly.

Corbin Carroll extends Diamondbacks' lead with homer

The Diamondbacks aren’t done. Corbin Carroll launched a 421-foot home run off Emmet Sheehan to lead off the second inning, moving Arizona's lead up to 7-0. The Diamondbacks already have eight hits in the game.

Diamondbacks chase Clayton Kershaw in first inning

Clayton Kershaw's night is already over.

Kershaw gave up five runs before he recorded an out and he was not able to further stem the tide. After finally inducing a groundout, Kershaw walked Alek Thomas then yielded a run-scoring double to Evan Longoria to put the Dodgers in a 6-0 hole. That brought Dodgers manager Dave Roberts out of the dugout.

Kershaw was replaced by Emmet Sheehan.

According to ESPN Stats & Info, Kershaw is the first pitcher to allow five hits and five runs before recording an out in a playoff game.

Diamondbacks jump all over Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers early

This won’t quiet the debate about Clayton Kershaw’s playoff legacy.

The visiting Diamondbacks led 5-0 before Kershaw recorded a single out in the top of the first inning at Dodger Stadium.

Ketel Marte started off the game with a double thanks to James Outman’s misplay. Rookie Corbin Carroll knocked  him home with a single and Tommy Pham followed that up with a single of his own. No. 4 hitter Christian Walker brought Carroll home with a double and then Gabriel Moreno cleared the bases with a three-run homer.

Phillies shut out Braves in Game 1 of NLDS

The Philadelphia Phillies took Game 1 of the National League Division Series in style.

For the first time this season, the Atlanta Braves were shut out, 3-0, at home. The Phillies' carousel of pitchers − seven of them − shut down one of the most prolific offenses in the history of baseball. It was also only the third time all season the Braves were held scoreless.

The Phillies offense was led by Bryce Harper, who slugged a home run in the sixth inning, and wild-card hero Bryson Stott, who hit an RBI single in the fourth inning to score Harper.

The Braves will host Game 2 in Atlanta on Monday.

Phillies add insurance run with catcher's interference call

The Phillies scored an insurance run the hard way − by catcher's interference

With the bases loaded and a 2-0 lead in the eighth inning, Phillies hitter J.T. Realmuto swung at a pitch, but his bat grazed the mitt of Braves catcher Sean Murphy.

The play was reviewed, but the call was upheld. The run gave the Phillies a 3-0 lead with six outs remaining.

Verlander holds Twins scoreless, Alvarez and Altuve power Astros

HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched six shutout innings, Yordan Alvarez homered twice and the Astros held on for a 6-4 win over the Twins in their AL Division Series opener Saturday.

Jose Altuve hit a leadoff home run and Alvarez had three RBI as the defending World Series champions earned their 10th straight victory in Game 1 of a Division Series.

Verlander settled in after a shaky start and the Astros built a 5-0 lead through six innings with big swings from Altuve and Alvarez.

Héctor Neris took over for Verlander to start the seventh. With two outs, Jorge Polanco hit a soaring three-run homer to right field. Two pitches later, rookie Royce Lewis launched his third homer in three playoff games to make it 5-4.

In the bottom half, Caleb Thielbar entered to face Alvarez with one out. The slugger became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Thielbar this season when he smacked an off-speed pitch off the foul pole in right to give Houston some insurance. − Associated Press

Bryce Harper tags Braves ace to extend Phillies' lead

Bryce Harper homered for the first time in the 2023 playoffs in the top of the sixth, launching a solo shot off the Braves’ Spencer Strider on his first pitch of the at-bat to double the Phillies’ lead.

The Braves now have to dig out of a 2-0 hole after they stranded runners in scoring position in back-to-back innings.

Wild-card hero Bryson Stott gets Phillies on the board

The Philadelphia Phillies are on the board first.

Wild-card hero Bryson Stott drove in Bryce Harper with an RBI single in the fourth inning for a 1-0 lead over the Atlanta Braves. Stott hit a grand slam in Game 2 of the wild-card round that propelled the Phillies over the Miami Marlins.

Yordan Alvarez hits second home run of game for Houston

Yordan Alvarez is made for the big moments.

The Astros slugger, who was the Player of the Month in the American League in September, crushed his second home run of the game to give the Astros some breathing room. His home run hit the right field foul pole to give Houston a 6-4 lead in the bottom of the seventh inning.

Twins slug back-to-back home runs to make it a one-run ballgame

With Justin Verlander out of the game, the Twins came fighting back.

Back-to-back home runs from Jorge Polanco and Royce Lewis in the seventh inning made it a one-run ballgame.

Hector Neris, who relieved Verlander, allowed both homers and four runs before he was removed from the game with a 5-4 lead.

Polanco got the Twins started with a three-run homer, followed by a solo shot by Lewis, who now has three postseason homers in 12 plate appearances.

Rangers beat Orioles to take Game 1 of ALDS

BALTIMORE – Fresh off an upset on the road in the wild card round, the Texas Rangers corralled another victory away from home, taking Game 1 of their ALDS against the Orioles by a score of 3-2.

Rookie Josh Jung’s solo homer in the sixth inning proved to be the difference as the shaky Texas bullpen kept the Orioles from mounting one of their trademark comebacks.

After starting pitchers Andrew Heaney of Texas and Kyle Bradish matched zeroes for the first three innings, the Rangers finally broke through with a pair of runs in the fourth on an RBI double by rookie Evan Carter and a run-scoring single by catcher Jonah Heim.

The Orioles chipped away with single runs in the fourth and sixth innings, but couldn’t pull even against a Rangers bullpen that had a 4.77 ERA this season, seventh-worst in the majors and last among the eight remaining playoff teams.

Baltimore’s best chance came in the eighth, when Aroldis Chapman walked Austin Hays and Adley Rutchman to start the inning. But Anthony Santander hit into a double play and Chapman fanned Ryan Mountcastle with a 101 mph fastball to end the threat.

Game 2 will be tomorrow at Camden Yards with rookie right-hander Grayson Rodriguez on the mound for Baltimore against veteran lefty Jordan Montgomery of Texas. − Steve Gardner

Grounds crew workers prepare the field at Dodger Stadium for the NLDS.
Grounds crew workers prepare the field at Dodger Stadium for the NLDS.

MLB playoffs schedule: Division Series game times

Justin Verlander dominant in Game 1 outing

Astros starter Justin Verlander's day on the mound is over. After 93 pitches and six shutout innings, the former Cy Young winner has been removed from the game with a 5-0 lead. Once in the dugout, you could read his lips when he approached Astros pitching coach Josh Miller: 'Are you sure?"

Hector Neris relieved Verlander in the seventh.

Astros add insurance runs in the fifth inning

Jose Abreu made it 4-0 Houston with an RBI single in the fifth inning. Alex Bregman came around to score from second as the ball dropped in left field. Chas McCormick followed up with a RBI single, scoring Yordan Alvarez for a 5-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Justin Verlander has been cruising through the Twins lineup thanks to timely defense and two double plays.

Astros take early 3-0 lead behind two homers

Yordan Alvarez's postseason success continues.

The slugger took a changeup from Twins' Bailey Ober deep to right field for a two-run homer in the bottom of the third inning. The Astros storm out front to a 3-0 lead in front of a raucous crowd at Minute Maid Park.

Astros' Jose Altuve hits first pitch for a home run

Jose Altuve's October magic continues.

The Astros second baseman led off the bottom of the first inning with a home run off Twins starter Bailey Ober to give Houston a 1-0 lead. It was his eighth career postseason home run in the 1st inning, two more than Albert Pujols, and 24th of his career.

Twins-Astros Game 1 underway

With the Rangers-Orioles still in progress, the Twins-Astros game is also underway. Bailey Ober for the Twins goes up against former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander of the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

Orioles home run cuts into Rangers lead

BALTIMORE − Anthony Santander energized a sellout crowd of 46,450 at Camden Yards with a booming 420-foot home run to right center field to cut the Rangers’ lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.

The switch-hitting DH scored the Orioles’ first run of the game in the fourth when he walked and scored on Ryan Mountcastle’s double.

The homer was the only run allowed by Texas right-hander Dane Dunning, who took over for starter Andrew Heaney in the fourth. Veteran lefty Will Smith came on to get the final out of the sixth, retiring Gunnar Henderson on strikes. − Steve Gardner

Rangers home run extends Texas lead

BALTIMORE − Josh Jung hammered Orioles reliever Jacob Webb’s third pitch 403 feet over the center field wall to give the Rangers a 3-1 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

Webb had just entered the game in relief of lefty Danny Coulombe, who got the final out of the fifth. The veteran has pitched well since being picked up on waivers from the Angels, posting a 3.27 ERA in 22 innings. The home run was the first he has allowed as a member of the Orioles. − Steve Gardner

Orioles respond in bottom of fourth inning

BALTIMORE − Never ones to fret this season after falling behind, the Orioles responded to a Rangers rally in the top of the fourth with one of their own in the bottom half of the inning.

Trailing 2-0, Anthony Santander drew a one-out walk and came around to score on Ryan Mountcastle’s double off Texas lefty Andrew Heaney. Mountcastle was the O’s most potent hitter against southpaws this season with a 1.052 OPS in 161 plate appearances.

After Gunnar Henderson popped up to short, Rangers manager Bruce Bochy pulled his starter in favor of right-hander Dane Dunning, who was able to get pinch-hitter Adam Frazier on a popup to end the inning and preserve a 2-1 Texas lead.

The Orioles had 48 come-from-behind victories this season, tied for the most in the majors. − Steve Gardner

Rangers take early lead on Orioles

BALTIMORE − Jonah Heim’s RBI single capped a two-run fourth inning as the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 lead over the homestanding Orioles.

The Rangers broke up a pitcher’s duel between Kyle Bradish and Andrew Heaney when Adolis Garcia ripped a one-out double into the left field corner and came home on rookie Evan Carter’s double to right. The hit was Carter’s eighth in 10 at-bats this postseason. All eight hits have been doubles.

Up until that point in the game, Bradish had only allowed two baserunners through the first three innings.

The Rangers could have padded their lead even more but left the bases loaded when Bradish struck out leadoff man Marcus Semien to end the inning. − Steve Gardner

Orioles-Rangers off to scoreless start

The Orioles-Rangers were scoreless after two innings. Starting pitchers Kyle Bradish and Andrew Heaney are both off to clean starts. The sun is out and rain is no longer in the forecast.

'Dancing On My Own’ singer ready to perform for Phillies if they win World Series

The British singer with the pop hit about loneliness and heartbreak — one that includes the lyric, “Does she love you better than I can?” — is as amazed as anyone the song has improbably bloomed into a postseason anthem for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Calum Scott, though, sounds these days like any guy from south Philly.

“Ring the bell,” he says, laughing.

Should Bryce Harper and the Phillies win the World Series, save a spot at the end of the Broad Street parade route for Scott. Scott insists he’s coming to Philly and wearing the jersey the team sent him last season as a thank-you for his part in making “ Dancing On My Own ” a staple of the postseason soundtrack at Citizens Bank Park.

“They win the World Series, I’m there, man,” Scott said. “I think at that point, you’ll have to hold me back.” − Associated Press

Orioles-Rangers Game 1 delayed

BALTIMORE – With a light drizzle blanketing Camden Yards throughout the morning, the opening game of today’s MLB playoff quadrupleheader will be delayed for a little over an hour past its scheduled starting time.

MLB announced that the Orioles and Rangers are now scheduled to get underway at 2:15 p.m. ET.

The tarp has been on the field all morning, but a few minutes before the original 1:03 p.m. start time the rain stopped and the grounds crew began to get to work raking the infield dirt.

The forecast for the rest of the afternoon calls for sunny skies and temperatures in the low 60s. − Steve Gardner

Playoff pitching matchups: MLB's improv season

BALTIMORE — As the eight remaining participants in baseball’s playoffs take the field in the Division Series round beginning Saturday, their best-laid pitching plans are as bright and orderly as the chalk lines painting the infields.

For the next five weeks, they’ll be turned into fingerpaintings a toddler could have concocted.

With a five-game Division Series and best-of-seven League Championship and World Series to follow, even the heartiest and deepest staffs in a typical year look nothing like the groups that began this journey.

And this year, even the greatest clubs going in are going to rely often on baseball’s new best friend – “TBA” – to get through this month. — Gabe Lacques

MLB World Series predictions

After four sweeps in the wild-card round, Major League Baseball's playoffs resume Saturday with the best-of-five Division Series getting underway.

The LDS winners advance to their respective best-of-seven League Championship Series, with the 2023 World Series scheduled to begin on Oct. 27 at the home ballpark of the team with the better record.

Here's who USA TODAY Sports' baseball writers and editors think are going to win the World Series:

  • Bob Nightengale: Atlanta

  • Gabe Lacques: Phillies

  • Steve Gardner: Atlanta

  • Jesse Yomtov: Orioles

  • Scott Boeck: Atlanta

  • Steve Borelli: Dodgers

Read USA TODAY Sports' full MLB playoff predictions here

Injured Max Scherzer left off Rangers' ALDS roster

BALTIMORE – Still recovering from a shoulder injury that’s kept him sidelined since mid-September, Max Scherzer will not be on the Texas Rangers’ roster for the American League Division Series against the Baltimore Orioles.

The two teams finalized their 26-man rosters before the start of their best-of-five series that begins today at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said Scherzer “threw well” in his bullpen session yesterday, as he faced live hitters for the first time since suffering the teres major strain several weeks ago.

“But still we didn't feel like we had enough information where we could put him on the roster right now,” Bochy said. “He was not going to be available the first two games, so we decided not to put him on for that reason.” However, Bochy said the three-time Cy Young award winner could potentially be available if the Rangers advance to the next round.

Scherzer, 39, was acquired from the New York Mets at the Aug. 1 deadline. He posted a 4-2 record with a 3.20 ERA in eight starts with the Rangers prior to his injury.

– Steve Gardner

Ranking MLB's eight remaining playoff teams

As Major League Baseball’s postseason bracket challenge gets trimmed from 12 hopefuls to eight, the formality of the four wild-card series certainly created a fresh set of challenges for the higher-seeded and ostensibly superior division winners who await in the American and National League Division Series.

And the clearest path to a pennant and the World Series that follows looks much more cluttered.

Nonetheless, USA TODAY Sports will take aim at ranking the remaining playoff pool, based on the best path to the World Series as the four Division Series tip off Saturday:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers

  2. Minnesota Twins

  3. Baltimore Orioles

  4. Philadelphia Phillies

  5. Atlanta Braves

  6. Texas Rangers

  7. Houston Astros

  8. Arizona Diamondbacks

– Gabe Lacques

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2023 MLB playoffs: Diamondbacks crush Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers