The Dodgers got on the board early and never looked back, and Clayton Kershaw found his groove to beat the Braves 6-1 in Game 1 of their National League Division Series on Thursday night at Turner Field in Atlanta.
Kershaw had trouble finding the zone with anything but the fastball early, and threw 77 pitches in the first four innings. But he found his bearings enough to strikeout six in a row and allowed just one run in his seven innings.
According to Elias Sports Kershaw's six straight strikeouts tied an MLB postseason record, set previously by five others.
Kershaw's 12 total strikeouts are the third-most by a Dodgers pitcher in a postseason game, trailing only Sandy Koufax (15 strikeouts in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series) and Carl Erskine (14 in Game 3 of the 1953 World Series).
Kershaw struck out nine of the final 11 batters he faced, and none were more beautiful than this curve to pinch hitter B.J. Upton in the fifth inning:
The Dodgers got on the board in the second thanks to the legs of Yasiel Puig, who singled then advanced to third on a single to center field by Juan Uribe. A fly ball to center field by Skip Schumaker scored Puig easily for a 1-0 lead.
The first run of the game was driven in by the center fielder, just like the Dodgers drew it up.
But thanks to a throw home from center fielder Jason Heyward that was way offline, Uribe was able to advance to second base then scored when A.J. Ellis doubled just out of the reach of Evan Gattis, doing his best Greg Luzinski impression in left field:
Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run shot in the third inning, his first career postseason home run, to give the Dodgers a 4-0 lead. Mark Ellis singled home A.J. Ellis in the fourth inning for a 5-0 lead.
For Ellis, he had the 16th multiple-double postseason game in Dodgers history and was just the fourth catcher to do so, joining Joe Ferguson (1978 World Series Game 6), Rick Dempsey (1988 NLCS Game 5) and Russell Martin (2008 NLCS Game 3).
The Braves' best chance at getting back into the game came in the fourth inning, when a Freddie Freeman single and Evan Gattis walk put a pair of runners on with one out. Brian McCann hit a deep fly ball the opposite way to left, a ball that just kept carrying. But just after it looked like McCann's drive may have been a three-run home run to cut the Dodgers' lead to two runs, the ball found its way into the glove of Carl Crawford at the wall for the second out of the inning.
Chris Johnson did put the Braves on the board with a single to center but Kershaw was able to wiggle out of further damage with a swinging strikeout by Andrelton Simmons to end the frame.
Hanley Ramirez added an insurance run with an RBI double in the sixth. Every Dodgers position player got a hit except Schumaker, and he drove in the first run and also drew a walk. The Dodgers spread the runs rather evenly, as only Ramirez and Schumaker didn't score on Thursday night.
The Dodgers try to take the first two games in Atlanta when they send Zack Greinke to the mound on Friday night at Turner Field. The Braves counter with southpaw Mike Minor.
Game 1 particulars
Home run: Adrian Gonzalez (1)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (1-0): 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 12 strikeouts
LP - Kris Medlen (0-1): 4 IP, 9 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts