Dodgers: 2018 Playoff Clayton Kershaw Different but Still Dominant

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LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 05: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after retiring the side in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 05: Clayton Kershaw #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after retiring the side in the eighth inning against the Atlanta Braves during Game Two of the National League Division Series at Dodger Stadium on October 5, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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The Dodgers entered last night’s game feeling very good about their chances of winning.  Already up 1-0, Clayton Kershaw was given the chance to put the Braves in a 2-0 deficit.

Clayton Kershaw had quite the outing last night as he helped put the Braves in a critical 2-0 series deficit.  Ronald Acuna got things started with a bang off of Kershaw slicing a leadoff double into the gap off Kershaw but then Kershaw retired the side in order afterward and did not give up a run.

Really, that first inning man on third situation was the only time that Clayton Kershaw found himself in a jam.  At one point, Kershaw retired fourteen straight batters and he finished the night with eight innings of two hit ball, allowing no runs.  While Kershaw only managed to strikeout three Brave hitters, he continued to induce weak contact and get ground ball double plays a few times throughout the game.

In his start last night, Kershaw pitched into the eighth inning for the first time of his postseason career and still only struck out three batters.  While the low strikeout numbers are somewhat of a red flag, it didn’t seem to affect the results as Kershaw still allowed just two hits and no earned runs.  Kershaw could have gone for the complete game but Dave Roberts wanted Kenley Jansen to get some work in.

Even though Clayton is only turning thirty-one years old next season, he is starting to become a crafty veteran like some of the greats have transitioned into later in their careers such as Greg Maddux.  Last night, Kershaw’s start was very Maddux-like as Kershaw had under 90 pitches entering the ninth inning where he was ultimately pulled to a standing ovation.

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Kershaw has seen his average fastball velocity dip two miles per hour since the beginning of last season, but when you have the kind of off-speed pitches that Clayton does, you don’t need to rely on a powerful fastball.  In fact, the fastball has been Clayton Kershaw’s worst pitch and it’s been hit the most.

This season, opposing batters hit .290 against Kershaw’s fastball and in 2017 opposing hitters hit .255 against the four seam fastball of Kershaw.  Those averages are way higher than the average allowed against Kershaw’s slider and curve.  The opposition hit .185 against Kershaw’s slider this season and .200 against Clayton’s curveball.  Last season opposing hitters hit only .149 against Kershaw’s curveball.

It will be interesting to track how Kershaw does the rest of the Dodgers’ 2018 postseason run but it’s clear that he is a much different pitcher now.  Clayton will need to have his pinpoint control against the potent offense of the Rockies or Brewers next series and then the American League if the Dodgers advance to another World Series.

Next. Kershaw looked to start the 2018 postseason strong. dark

Earlier this month, Kershaw admitted in a press conference that he is not the same pitcher he once was.  When you have the stuff that Clayton Kershaw does, it doesn’t matter if your fastball is topping out at 90-91 miles per hour.  This postseason Kershaw will be different, but he can still be dominant.

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