Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw Seeking a Strong Start to his 2018 Postseason
The Dodgers decided to change things up this postseason and did not send Clayton Kershaw to the mound to open the NLDS. Kershaw will pitch in game two and look to start his postseason out strong tonight.
Clayton Kershaw’s playoff struggles are well documented. All you have to do is stroll through social media and every time Kershaw gets mentioned for pitching a good game, the doubters quickly tarnish his performance with negative comments relating to his past playoff experiences. This postseason Kershaw faces less pressure as the Dodgers’ playoff rotation is deep and talented.
The past two National League Division series have been unkind to Kershaw. Last season, Kershaw posted a 5.68 ERA in one start against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although Kershaw won the game, his start was mediocre as he allowed four runs on four home runs in 6 1/3 innings. Kershaw also walked three batters and despite the good run support he received, it was a struggle.
A year prior to that in the 2016 NLDS, Kershaw made two starts and one relief appearance against the Washington Nationals. Despite his heroic save that pushed the Dodgers over the hump in the decisive game five, Kershaw posted a 5.84 across his two starts and one relief appearance. Kershaw once again had two mediocre starts against the Nationals in 2016.
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In his first start of the 2016 NLDS, Kershaw pitched five innings allowing eight hits and three earned runs. In his second start of the series, Kershaw was even worse tossing 6 2/3 innings allowing five earned runs with a chance to close out the series. It was a strange start for Kershaw as he struck out eleven batters but the results were not good at all.
Throughout his entire big league career, the NLDS has seen ordinary results from the greatest pitcher of the current generation. Lifetime in the NLDS, Kershaw has a 4-3 record to go along with a 4.18 ERA. The home run has bit Kershaw to the tune of ten home runs allowed in ten starts, exactly a home run allowed per start. Most of those starts came before the baseballs were accused of being juiced.
The road will not be any easier for Clayton Kershaw as he has seen his fastball velocity decline two miles per hour in the last year. Kershaw has still pitched better than at least 90% of big league pitchers, but he is now going to have to be a crafty veteran that relies on his excellent curveball and slider. He still has pin point accuracy of his fastball but he is not going to blow his fastball past hitters like he once did.
While the burden of carrying the Dodgers’ is less this season, Kershaw is still facing the pressure of pending free agency. Kershaw is all but a lock to opt out of his final two years and become a free agent for the first time in his career. A strong postseason showing could convince the Dodgers to shell out a long term deal to the face of their franchise. In order to finally have that strong postseason showing, Kershaw must get off to a better start in the NLDS.