The Los Angeles Dodgers dissolved in all facets of the game in yet another Clayton Kershaw playoff start.
Just one day after the Dodgers exploded for 11 first-inning runs, Game 4 brought us no offense, no feel for the game from the manager, no defense, and no relief work.
Oh, and Clayton Kershaw wasn’t exactly up to his Hall of Fame standard, either.
Yes, this certainly was a Dodgers playoff game from sometime between 2013 and the present day.
Call it what you will. Center your anger on Kershaw, and brand him a choker after fighting back spasms and going a few batters longer than he ever should’ve. But in our eyes, you can pin the blame on every single member of the active roster who fought their way onto the field today, because not a one managed to meet the moment.
The way we tell our children about Playoff Kershaw will be difficult to parse, even for the biggest optimists in blue.
Kershaw’s appearances in the postseason have not been anywhere near as effective as those in the preceding months. He approached dominance with regularity during his Cy Young campaigns; he has very rarely done so in October, especially not as the shine on his fastball has diminished. Justin Verlander is, unfortunately, exactly what we want Kershaw to be. He has been solid. He has not been special — at least, not routinely.
But Mookie Betts is 2-for-14 in this NLCS without a single other counting stat to mention. Corey Seager went 0-for-4 on Thursday in a potential swing game. The lineup, built to smash and grab the momentum back on Wednesday, once again wilted for their de facto ace in this one, something that has happened far too often.
And a discussion of this contest cannot be completed without addressing the way Kershaw’s departure was handled.
It took every bit of fight to get the lefty’s latest shot at redemption through five innings. He bristled at firing all his bullets on Tuesday. By Thursday, we all hoped he’d be healed. Five one-run innings, with a rested bullpen and Ronald Acuña Jr. and Freddie Freeman approaching, seemed like a fine time for Dave Roberts to relent and call on Brusdar Graterol.
Instead, Kershaw’s flop sweat finally broke through his forehead; he allowed rockets to Acuña, Freeman and Ozuna, three hitters he should never have faced.
Kershaw was fine, and not great. Those meant to clean up his mess only exacerbated it. The nine men on the other side of the ball, vaunted throughout the offseason, regular season and every silent pause in between, did absolutely nothing.
It took the Dodgers over a half hour to load the bases on walks, nubbers, and floaters, pushing a run across in the top of the seventh and showing those who demand the roster focus on “small ball” more exactly what that looks like.
Within three seconds in the bottom half of the inning, Marcell Ozuna equaled their output by mashing a monstrous tater 400+ feet to dead center.
What the Dodgers have created works. But it never seems to work for an entire postseason, and it never ever seems to work when Clayton Kershaw is on the mound, and it always seems as if there is some opponent looming who can easily outwork them. And that is the most frustrating thing of all.