If there are any questions left about whether Clayton Kershaw can pitch in the postseason, the Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander answered them Tuesday night in Game 1 of the World Series.
The Dodgers ace spun a beauty, working seven near-flawless innings against the Houston Astros, allowing one run on three hits while striking out 11 in the Dodgers’ 3-1 win.
The questions about Kershaw’s postseason mettle were legitimate; the southpaw allowed 29 earned runs through his first 11 playoff appearances, posting a 5.12 career postseason ERA through the 2014 playoffs.
In recent years, however, he has started to turn things around. Granted, he hasn’t been the once-in-a-generation hurler we’ve seen in the regular season, he still has been very good, elite at times, against obviously heightened competition. Counting Tuesday’s start, Kershaw is 6-2 (with a save) in his last 11 postseason appearances.
But he made his biggest mark Tuesday, putting himself next to some of the best of all time by tearing through the Astros offense, which statistically was the best in baseball in 2017.
Per MLB’s postgame notes:
–Kershaw’s 11 strikeouts are tied for sixth-most in Dodgers World Series history, which might not sound impressive, but when you consider the club’s storied past and the Hall of Fame company he now keeps, it put things in perspective. The only pitchers Kershaw trails on that list? Sandy Koufax (15, twice) and Carl Erskine (14), and he’s tied with Don Drysdale, Don Newcombe and Sal Maglie.
–The last pitcher to strike out 11 batters in a World Series game: Randy Johnson in 2001.
–Kershaw became the 10th pitcher to record at least 11 strikeouts in Game 1 of the World Series, joining a list that includes Hall of Famers like Bob Gibson, Walter Johnson and Koufax.
–He also became just the second pitcher to strike out 11 without a walk in a World Series start and the first since Newcombe did so in the 1949 Fall Classic.
And of course, there was no shortage of pitching art.
Kershaw only threw 83 relatively low-stress pitches, which should set him up nicely for an eventual second (and perhaps third) start later in the series. If Kershaw can duplicate his Game 1 success, we might be looking at one of the greatest World Series performances of all time.
Talk about flipping the narrative.
Thumbnail photo via Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports Images