Clayton Kershaw is one of the greatest pitchers of his era but postseason success has often eluded the Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace left-hander. Kershaw looks to improve on his spotty playoff resume when he opens the National League Division Series against the visiting Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner stands just 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA in 18 career appearances (14 starts) in the postseason and is looking to help propel the team with the best record (104-58) in the majors to its first World Series berth since 1988. “I’m sure every year I feel like we’re going to win the World Series. This year is no different,” Kershaw told reporters. “We’ve had a better regular season than I’ve ever been a part of.” Arizona, which defeated the Colorado Rockies 11-8 in Wednesday’s NL wild-card game, isn’t about to back down from the Dodgers after winning the regular-season series 11-8. “Look, the Dodgers got on a tremendous run there, and I think they were steamrolling teams and intimidating teams, and I don’t think we have that mentality,” Diamondbacks manager Torey Lovullo said. “We love that battle mindset. We love that challenge.”
TV: 10:30 p.m. ET, TBS
PITCHING MATCHUP: Diamondbacks RH Taijuan Walker (9-9, 3.49 ERA) vs. Dodgers LH Clayton Kershaw (18-4, 2.31)
Walker was named the starter early Thursday evening, an assignment that opened up after All-Star left-hander Robbie Ray was needed to pitch in relief in the wild-card game. The 25-year-old was 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA in three starts against the Dodgers this season and said he will be aware of his nerves in what is his first career postseason appearance. “I think the biggest thing is controlling your emotions and taking it one pitch at a time,” Walker said at a press conference. “I think you can’t go out there and let the adrenaline really get to you. You have to take a deep breath every pitch and really focus on each pitch.”
Kershaw dominated the Diamondbacks in two starts this season by going 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA and holding batters to a .118 average. The 29-year-old has a long standard of success against Arizona with a solid 2.55 career ERA in 26 career starts while going 14-8 with a 1.12 WHIP. The postseason issues are a concern to the Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts said during Thursday’s press conference that it is “set in stone” that Kershaw won’t be used on short rest and his next start would be in Game 5, if necessary.
1. Diamondbacks All-Star 1B Paul Goldschmidt, who hit a three-run homer in the wild-card victory, is 10-for-44 with two homers and 17 strikeouts against Kershaw.
2. Los Angeles LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu, who started 24 games this season, didn’t make the postseason roster after being passed over as one of the team’s four postseason starters.
3. Arizona OF David Peralta (back, neck) is expected to be in the Game 1 lineup after going 3-for-5 with two runs scored in the wild-card game.
PREDICTION: Dodgers 4, Diamondbacks 2