The time is now for Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw.
Clayton Kershaw was so close to burying all the critics back during his 2017 postseason run, but then came that disastrous outing in Game 5 of the World Series against the Houston Astros. Though Houston was cheating, the Dodgers had a prime chance to take back the momentum before heading home.
Instead, Kershaw was tagged for six earned runs across just 4.2 innings of work in a wild 13-12 loss. He’d come in to help the Dodgers in Game 7, but by that point the Astros had already scored five runs. Kershaw’s four innings of scoreless baseball didn’t matter.
But now, against the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series, the Dodgers’ rotation is lined up perfectly for Kershaw to salvage a positive postseason legacy. He’ll get Games 1 and 5, just like he did in 2017. Yes, Walker Buehler is this team’s ace, but it’s up to Kershaw to lift Los Angeles starting on Tuesday night.
Kershaw is one of the best regular-season pitchers of all time, but owns an 11-12 record with a 4.31 ERA, 1.09 WHIP and 27 home runs in 35 playoff games (28 starts) since 2008 and no ring to show for it. He’s constantly been labeled as a choke and that talk has persisted after he faltered at the end of the team’s run three years ago.
But there’s a big difference this time around. Though the Rays are a tremendous team, they don’t exactly sport a potent offense. They ranked just 12th in runs scored and 13th in OPS during the regular season. Their pitching is more of their claim to fame, but guess what? The Dodgers had the best team ERA during the regular season.
Kershaw will likely face the Rays twice, and it won’t be like 2013 when he got battered by the high-powered Cardinals offense; or like 2014 when the Cards continued their onslaught after getting to him the year prior; or like 2015, 2016, 2018 and 2019 when he ran into the Mets, Cubs, Red Sox and Nationals, all of whom were teams of destiny in some capacity (and also sported some of the best offenses in the league); or like 2017 when the dangerous Astros were at the peak of their cheating.
The Rays are scrappy, for sure, but they’ve struck out 150 times this postseason — the most of any team. They’re batting .209, which is the worst among every team that advanced past the Wild Card round. All Kershaw has to do is avoid the home run ball, which is where the Rays have been making a killing (lead all postseason teams with 25 dingers).
Nonetheless, this is it for the left-hander. It’s all laid out for him to bounce back and redefine his postseason legacy, capture the World Series ring, and not have to keep climbing the uphill battle in the twilight of his career. It could be the perfect ending to Kershaw’s story.