Of all the ways for the Dodgers' 2013 season to end, Friday night's events in St. Louis was the least expected. Clayton Kershaw, the best pitcher in baseball and soon to be two-time Cy Young Award winner, was battered around by the Cardinals in a 9-0 loss in Game 6 of the NLCS at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis beat the Dodgers four games to two, and will advance to play in its 19th World Series, beginning Wednesday night in either Boston or Detroit.
Michael Wacha was brilliant, again, with seven scoreless innings for his second win of the series. He has allowed one run in three postseason starts in his rookie season.
Kershaw allowed a season-high seven runs, his most since July 24, 2012 in another loss to the Cardinals in St. Louis. The Cardinals have beaten Kershaw five straight times, including twice in the NLCS.
After stranding runners in scoring position in the first two innings, Kershaw completely unraveled in the third. Matt Carpenter had an 11-pitch at-bat, including eight foul balls, that resulted in a double with one out. Four singles and a walk later, St. Louis held a 4-0 lead. It was the 258th inning of the season for Kershaw, and the first time in four years a team batted around against him.
The Cardinals struck again for five runs in the fifth, including three charged to Kershaw, who didn't record an out in the frame for his shortest outing of the season.
Kershaw allowed 10 hits, the third time in his career he has allowed double-digit hits. The other two starts were at Coors Field.
Kershaw allowed seven total runs (three earned runs) in his last six starts, totaling 39 innings, including the regular season. He allowed seven runs in four innings on Friday night.
Kershaw certainly wasn't alone in his bad night. Yasiel Puig made two bad throws in the third inning and another misplay in the fifth, and was charged with two errors. The Dodgers offense was nonexistent again, limited to two hits on the night.
But it was Kershaw's worst start that was the most shocking and most unexpected, a shocking end to a superbly excellent season.
The Dodgers will next take the field in spring training in Arizona at some point in February. Their first regular season game of 2014 will be early, with a pair of games in Australia against the Diamondbacks on March 22-23.
Game 6 particulars
Home runs: none
WP - Michael Wacha (3-0): 7 IP, 2 hits, 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (1-2): 4+ IP, 10 hits, 7 runs, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts