LOS ANGELES — The conversation this week surrounding the first two games of the NLDS between the Braves and Dodgers had largely centered around the decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 over Clayton Kershaw.
Both lefties dominated Atlanta and the Dodgers have yet to surrender a run to this point of the series, putting the conversation to rest — for now. Ryu went seven scoreless Thursday, Kershaw went eight scoreless Friday.
“Yeah, maybe. Maybe a tick, for sure,” Kershaw said when asked if he had extra satisfaction in his performance, given all the talk this week of what some perceived as a demotion of sorts.
“But Ryu threw so unbelievable last night that you just want to match him. That’s all I was trying to do is try and put our team in a good spot, and you want to defend home field when you have home field obviously. So Game 1, Game 2, game whatever, I’m getting to pitch in the playoffs and I’m excited about that.”
The lefty had went back to the mound in the ninth, having thrown just 85 pitches through the first eight frames. But when catcher Tyler Flowers was announced as a pinch hitter to leadoff the inning, manager Dave Roberts immediately came and got Kershaw, bringing Kenley Jansen in to close out the win.
The complete game would’ve been nice, but the plan was always to take Kershaw out of the game if they went to the right-handed bat off the bench. Jansen made the back-end of the deal hold up and the Dodgers took a commanding 2-0 lead in the series.
“It is impressive,” Roberts remarked. “It’s not a surprise. This guy is a potential Hall of Fame player. So to have the noise around him -- but when it comes to his day to start and to help his ball club win a game, I had no concern that anything was going to affect him.”
“And our decision, I think there was -- a lot was made of it, but I think that I feel good, we feel good that we put both those guys in the best position to pitch well.”
For Kershaw’s struggles at points in the postseason, the lefty sure hasn’t had trouble putting away the Braves. In three career starts — including two in the 2013 NLDS — Kershaw has now gone 2-0 with a 0.43 ERA against Atlanta, allowing just three runs (one earned) over 21 innings of work.
One thing that was missing from the results were strikeouts. A staple for Kershaw in his career, he only punched out three on Friday.
“I think the biggest thing is soft contact,” said Kershaw. “Obviously there’s going to be certain situations where you need strikeouts, but get outs as fast as possible. That’s the biggest thing for me. So however I can do that in an efficient manner is great. And there’s definitely times when you’re going to need to strike guys out like there in the first.”
“But other than that, I think any out as best you can.”
The series now shifts to Atlanta as the Dodgers look to end the series with a sweep.