LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw was excellent for seven innings Wednesday afternoon at Dodger Stadium. The lefty put the clamps down on Milwaukee to lead the Dodgers to a big win.
A close game into the later innings, the Dodgers scored in pairs for the sixth and seventh inning to pull away to a 5-2 victory. The win gives the Dodgers a 3-2 lead in the series as it shifts to Milwaukee for Game 6 Friday night.
Kershaw worked through a wobbly third inning that saw him walk two — including opposing pitcher Brandon Woodruff — and leave a slider over the outer half of the plate for Lorenzo Cain to smash. The only run of the game for the Brewers off Kershaw scored on Cain’s double to dead center.
Before the inning would draw to a close, Kershaw would strike out Jesus Aguilar with the bases loaded to end the threat.
“I was thankful to get ahead of him in that at-bat,” Kershaw said of facing Aguilar. “And I was trying to stay on the edges as best I could. He’s a great hitter, he had a great year. I was trying to do my best to work the bottom of the zone, work the edges, get him to chase as best I could.”
“(I was) fortunate to get a slider past him for that last pitch.”
Kershaw would allow just one other batter to reach outside of the third and starting with strikeout of Aguilar, he would retire the final 13 batters he faced. When the dust settled on his afternoon, the left-hander had struck out nine.
Kershaw struck out nine or more in just three starts during the regular season, his lowest since his rookie season when he had none. Wednesday was proof that the bullets are still there, firing off his eighth career postseason start with at least nine strikeouts. Justin Verlander with eight himself, is the only other starter in baseball history to achieve that status.
It was the ninth time in his career that Kershaw went at least six innings and allowed one earned run or less, joining Verlander and Whitey Ford in a tie for seventh all-time. Tom Glavine tops the list with 16.
Clayton Kershaw, ladies and gentlemen. pic.twitter.com/3uLrqtRpxe— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) October 18, 2018
“Clayton was outstanding today,” gushed his manager Dave Roberts. “Mixed his pitches really well. He was stressed there in the third inning where he was up to 30 pitches and big punch on Aguilar, and settled in and gave us that length that we needed. And so we kind of fed off that.”
The offense was held in check by Woodruff in the early going, coming up with their first hit in the fourth inning. But two double play balls in the first four frames kept the Dodgers off the scoreboard.
It was the fifth inning when the home team would break through to tie the score. Chris Taylor led off with an infield single to short, advancing on a bad throw from Orlando Arcia. On the very next pitch, Taylor stole third without a throw and scored two batters later when Austin Barnes banged a base hit through the drawn in infield into center.
The single was also important because Yasiel Puig was on deck to bat for Kershaw, with the Dodgers down one. The tie game allowed Kershaw to hit for himself and throw two more perfect innings.
“In that situation it’s 1-0,” Kershaw said. “So thankfully Barnes came up huge right there, got that big knock for us. Because if the runner is on third, Puig is probably going to get that at-bat and my day is over.”
In a tie game, the offense came up big the third time through the order. Following a Justin Turner single and Manny Machado getting hit by a pitch in the left elbow, Max Muncy beat the shift with a run-scoring single through the left side of the infield.
Pulled back for Kershaw in the previous inning, Puig came up in the sixth to pinch-hit for Kike Hernandez. Puig lined a 2-2 fastball into center to give the Dodgers a 3-1 lead, even if Muncy was thrown out trying to advance to third.
Allowed to hit for himself in the seventh knowing he wasn’t coming back for the eighth, Kershaw walked to start up another rally. Cody Bellinger doubled to left and Turner floated a single that dropped in front of Cain in center.
The Dodgers would get one more in the inning on a run-scoring ground ball off the bat of pinch-hitter Brian Dozier.
“The little things played a big part today,” Roberts said. “You can go down a list of ten things, probably; the baserunner, the stolen base, the walk, the base hit the other way, the fight with Dozier to put the ball in play.”
“There’s so many good things that we did today. And helped us win a baseball game.”
It was the third game in a row the Dodgers failed to hit a ball over the fence. Last time the Dodgers were held without a home run for three straight games was August 4-7. That was one of only two stretches this season where that would happen, also going without a long ball in the first three games of the season.
After two innings in a 13-inning affair Tuesday night, it made sense that Kenley Jansen would be unavailable Wednesday. But after the bullpen gave up a run in the top of the ninth, Jansen was summoned to close it out.
Doesn’t really matter how you get here, but thankful that we are here now for sure.
They thought it was sneaky
The Brewers thought they would try and pull a fast one on the Dodgers, pulling starter Wade Miley after one batter. The plan was to say they were starting Miley so that the Dodgers would go with their platoon-heavy lineup, then bring Woodruff in to really make the start.
It might have had more impact if not for the fact that the Dodgers had Bellinger and Muncy in the starting lineup. Roberts wouldn’t say how long they expected Miley, but said they were prepared for anything.
Miley will pitch Game 6 in Milwaukee.
Woodruff ended up being great anyway until the wheels started to fall off in the sixth. The big right-hander struck out eight over 5 1⁄3 innings, allowing the three runs (two earned) on five hits.
What was Kershaw’s reaction to the Brewers pulling Miley after five pitches?
“Just thinking that I have to get Woodruff out,” the lefty said with a smile. Woodruff hit a big solo homer off Kershaw in Game 1. Fortunately, Kershaw kept him in the park Wednesday.
Hyun-Jin Ryu will get the call for the Dodgers Friday night as they look to end the series over the Brewers.
Home Runs: none
WP: Clayton Kershaw (1-1): 7 IP, 3 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
LP: Brandon Woodruff (1-1): 5 1⁄3 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 1 walk, 8 strikeouts
SV: Kenley Jansen (2): 1⁄3 IP, 1 strikeout