Los Angeles Dodgers’ ace Clayton Kershaw has flipped the script, becoming the postseason stopper every championship team needs.
Give him a lead and you will most definitely regret it. Fail to capitalize on a hint of daylight and he will lead you into the darkness.
What used to be an exclusively regular season story for Clayton Kershaw has become every team’s postseason nightmare; the best pitcher of the current generation translating his lethalness on baseball’s biggest stage.
The southpaw’s sheer filth stonewalling opposing lineups when his team needs him most.
Last night at Wrigley Field, Kershaw did more than even a pivotal NLCS, coming up ginormous with a pennant on the line. He did more than stifle a brutally dangerous Chicago Cubs lineup, which has been well documented in its pursuit for the franchise’s first title in 108 years.
The 28-year-old continued a glorious upwards trend which has resurrected his playoff identity.
Seven innings of two-hit dominance, perfecting pitch after pitch en route to a substantial victory.
Whether it was a masterpiece with his back against the wall last year at Citi Field or the demanded final two outs of an exhilarating NLDS just three days ago, Kershaw has catapulted himself over the heights required to make himself a revered threat in October.
With his outing in front of an electric atmosphere in Chicago, which was the difference between a 2-0 NLCS deficit and stealing home-field advantage back from the 103-win Cubbies, he proved that the previous blunders are officially a thing of the past — and a fluke, for that matter.
His first 12 postseason appearances? 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA, surrendering seven homers and a .304 BABIP in 57.2 innings pitched.
In four appearances since? 3-0 with a 3.08 ERA, recording a save in the most crucial outing of his career (10/13 @ WAS). Moreover, he has fanned 33 batters in 26.1 innings pitched.
Most importantly, the Dodgers, a team in search of its first Commissioner’s Trophy since 1988, are 4-0 in his playoff appearances dating back to October 10 of last year.
This year, though, just serves as added emphasis.
A season that was largely in doubt for Los Angeles’ ace has suddenly become one featuring his most forthright impact.
As FOX play-by-play voice Joe Buck put so perfectly in the moment: a man whose season was in jeopardy with a herniated disc in his back carried the team on his back.
Just taken from pure circumstances, the performance was heroic. The Dodgers’ horrors of the previous night in desperate need of nullification.
The image of Miguel Montero admiring a pinch-hit go-ahead grand slam in the eighth inning of a tide-turning Game 1 in front of a revitalized and hungry crowd in the Windy City. The pain and agony that came with Dexter Fowler’s follow-up act and, ultimately, a missed opportunity to snatch a win from a franchise notorious for their bad luck.
To put it perfectly, the opening clash was a bitter pill to swallow, creating an even tougher situation which demanded a bounce-back to keep the series remotely interesting.
The only man responsible for the fate of a magical LA team? Clayton Kershaw.
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Momentum, or a lack thereof, only goes as far as the next day’s starting pitcher. That phrase will hold true until the end of time.
The only questions remaining hovered around a man who, for a guy in his prime, has essentially accomplished everything a major league baseball pitcher could dream of.
Would he bring his “A” game? Would he be the 2008-2014 playoff edition of himself or the one who has merely been his brilliant self since the outset of 2015?
The latter was answered in convincing fashion, and any other questions were put to bed.
If there was one aspect of Kershaw that needed to be furnished, it was this. One of the greatest left-handed pitchers in baseball history had one more task to triumph.
On a chilly autumn night, he provided closure … until Game 6.