Clayton Kershaw and Kenley Jansen proved to be a lethal combination again for the Dodgers in Game 2 of the NLCS on Sunday night. The dynamic duo pushed each other to new heights in their 1-0 win over the Cubs to even their best-of-7 series.
"[Kershaw has] been incredible. He's our workhorse. He's our guy,” said Adrian Gonzalez (to Jon Morosi on MLB Network), whose second-inning home run provided the only offense. “When he's on the mound we really like our chance of winning, and tonight he showed why.”
Kershaw pitched seven scoreless innings, the first scoreless start of his postseason career, coming off a busy NLDS that saw him start twice, including once on short rest, then finish off the series with a save in Game 5.
In the last 10 days, Kershaw has thrown 19⅓ innings and thrown 301 pitches, and the Dodgers have won all four games in which he has appeared. The seven innings on Sunday tied a playoff career high for Kershaw.
But it almost ended one out earlier. With Javier Baez due up and the tying run on first base, manager Dave Roberts visited the mound, joined by the entire infield and catcher Yasmani Grandal.
"I had every intent to go out there and get him, and go with Kenley,” Roberts said after the game. “But as I went out there and looked him in he eye, just the confidence that Clayton has to get a hitter, I went with my gut. He said we could get this guy, and at that point and time that's all I needed to hear.”
The rest of the team was on board with the decision to stay with Kershaw to finish the seventh.
In the 7th, Grandal said he ran out to talk to Kershaw before Dave Roberts could. "I said, hey, there's no way you're coming out."— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) October 17, 2016
"When I saw Dave coming out, I was hoping he came out just to give that pep talk to keep going,” Gonzalez said. “I was glad that Clayton told Dave that he could get him out, and that he was able to do what he said.”
"When I made the decision to leave Clayton out there, obviously they were excited for him to get that last out,” Roberts said. “It's taken 25 of us. Today was a good night.”
Kershaw then allowed a hard drive by Baez to the deepest part of the ballpark in center field, finding his way into Joc Pederson’s glove for the final out of the inning.
“"He's not going to trust me anymore if guys keep hitting the ball like that. That was scary,” Kershaw said after the game, to Ken Rosenthal on Fox Sports 1. “I thought that ball had a chance to get out of there. I missed my spot bad over the middle of the plate.
“Off the bat I thought something bad, for sure. I had a mini stroke right there. I thought it was at least off the wall, at least a double.”
"Seeing how Kersh went out there again, showing us he's the best in the game,” Jansen said after the game, to Morosi, “How he put this whole team on his back and carried us to a win just gave me that extra boost and extra energy to go out there and compete and earn that victory.”
Jansen has been a workhorse in his own right, throwing 51 pitches in 2⅓ innings in Game 5 of the NLDS, both career highs, then coming back three nights later to complete a two-inning save the longest of his career.
"Six outs is a lot to ask to get a save,” Kershaw said during his postgame press conference. “If we could spare him one more sitting down in between innings, and only have to do it once as opposed to twice, that was part of it.”
Jansen was even more efficient than Kershaw, needing only 18 pitches to get through two innings, retiring all six batters, including four by strikeout.
Jansen credited Dodgers strength and conditioning coach Brandon McDaniel for devising a workout plan in the offseason and throughout the year that included a lot of running, to help recover between outings. Jansen did more of the same in between Thursday’s marathon outing and Sunday, getting him ready for Game 2.
"It's been great for me this season,” Jansen said.
Jansen recorded the eighth postseason save of two or more innings in franchise history, and the first since Jay Howell in Game 4 of the 1988 World Series.
The result was a 1-0 victory for the Dodgers, their fourth-ever 1-0 postseason win and the first since Don Drysdale shut out the Yankees in Game 3 of the 1963 World Series.
And it came with the Dodgers’ two best pitchers on the mound for all nine innings.
"What [Kershaw has] given us in October is really something special. He again left it all out there. That's what he does,” Roberts said. “To go to Kenley for six outs, you couldn't have scripted it any better. It was another fun ballgame.”
The Dodgers return home for three games at Dodger Stadium, with Game 5 now necessary. Game 3 is Tuesday night, with Rich Hill on the mound for the Dodgers facing Jake Arrieta of the Cubs.