NLCS Game 2: Clayton Kershaw throws a gem as Dodgers even series with Cubs
Wait, Clayton Kershaw is supposed to be bad in the postseason? That sure wasn’t the case Sunday night in Game 2 of the National League Championship Series. Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers evened things up with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Cubs.
Kershaw was truly dominant through seven shutout innings, not even allowing a hit until the fifth. With Kershaw pitching like that, all the Dodgers needed was one run and they got it off the bat of slugger Adrian Gonzalez in the form of a solo homer early in the game.
After that, minus a few tense moments here and there, the Dodgers cruised to victory. Now they’ll head home to Los Angeles, undoubtedly feeling better about their World Series chances.
• There’s only one place to start and he’s the guy with a No. 22 Dodgers jersey. Kershaw was everything you want from your ace in the postseason: seven shutout innings, just two hits, six strikeouts and one walk on 84 pitches. He didn’t struggle much. The two hits came consecutively in the fifth inning, but they were stranded. The walk to Anthony Rizzo started off the seventh, the postseason inning that has given Kershaw trouble in the past, but he worked around it without any more trouble.
• You probably wouldn’t have guessed it at the time, but Gonzalez gave the game all the offense it would need in the second inning. That’s when he crushed an 88 mph cutter from Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks over the left-center fence.
• Even in the loss, you had to be impressed again by young Cubs second baseman Javier Baez, who showed quick-thinking on the field and was the first Chicago player to get a hit off Kershaw. Kershaw was perfect until the fifth inning, when Baez singled with two outs. In the top of the sixth, with two Dodgers runners on, Baez, let a Joc Pederson liner drop in front of him so he could turn an inning-ending double play.
Think about it. Ball gets to Baez in under a second. He actively decided to short-hop it. His mind is a quad core. Everyone else is a 386.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) October 17, 2016
• High-five for Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen — or maybe high-six. Once Kershaw was done, Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts went right to Jansen, who was looking for his first ever six-out save. He nailed it down perfectly. Six consecutive outs, four of which were strikeouts.
• The whole top of the Cubs lineup will go home upset after Game 2. Dexter Fowler, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist and Addison Russell, Chicago’s 1-5 hitters, were a combined 0-for-14 against Kershaw. Facing Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen in the ninth, Fowler, Bryant and Rizzo also went down in order.
• Corey Seager is still looking for consistency this postseason. Sure, his team won, so he won’t worry too much about this, but Seager was 0-for-3 with a walk. He left three runners on base, two of which came with two outs. Take away his two homers in the NLDS and Seager has just two other hits this postseason.
The Dodgers and Kershaw had a big scare in the seventh inning with Baez at the plate again. With a runner on, Baez hit a ball to deeeeeep center. The Wrigley faithful thought it was a homer off the bat. It sure sounded like it. But Baez’s blast didn’t have enough oomph. Pederson caught it at the warning track, much to the delight of Kershaw, manager Dave Roberts and Dodgers fans everywhere.
Kershaw, Kershaw, Kershaw. In a postseason that has relied heavily on relief pitchers — especially for the Dodgers — Kershaw gave us one of the few dominant outings this month. Beyond that, he proved yet again that his postseason reputation is overblown. There was no Clayton Kershaw-struggles-in-the-postseason narrative on this night. He was all ace.
Game 2 put Kershaw in fine company, on two fronts:
Kershaw is the first pitcher in #Dodgers history to record 14 straight outs to begin #postseason game since Koufax in Game 1 of the 1963 WS.
— Ryan M. Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder) October 17, 2016
Pitchers to start 1-0 #postseason wins vs #Cubs
Babe Ruth (9 ip), Game 1, 1918 World Series
Clayton Kershaw (7 ip), Game 2, 2016 NLCS
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) October 17, 2016
The series moves to Los Angeles for Games 3-5, tied up and completely up for grabs. Game 3 is Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET. Jake Arrieta (18-8, 3.10 ERA) will pitch for the Cubs against Rich Hill (12-5, 2.12 ERA) for the Dodgers.
More MLB coverage from Yahoo Sports:
Mike Oz is the editor of Big League Stew on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter! Follow @MikeOz