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Clayton Kershaw blanks the Braves for eight innings, Dodgers win 3-0

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Divisional Round - Atlanta Braves v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Two Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw allowed a double to Ronald Acuna Jr on the first pitch of the night. A solid line drive that one-hopped the wall in the gap to the left of center. Acuña would reach third with only one output wouldn’t score.

That would be as close as the Braves would come to scoring all night.

Kershaw would allow only one more hit the rest of the way, blanking Atlanta in eight skillful innings. The Dodgers cruised to a 3-0 win to bring them one game away from eliminating the Braves from postseason.

By shutting out the Braves for the second consecutive game, the Dodgers are the second team to open a postseason run with two shutouts since the 1921 Yankees.

All week the talk had been about the Dodgers going with Hyun-Jin Ryu in Game 1 instead of Kershaw. Whatever led to the decision, there is no telling whether that ever mattered.

But was there some amount of satisfaction for Kershaw with how well he performed after all that surrounded the decision to move him to Game 2: “Yeah, maybe. Maybe a tick.”

Retiring 14 in a row at one point, Kershaw allowed only three Braves to reach base. The leadoff double by Acuña, an infield single for Ender Inciarte in the fifth and a hit batter in the sixth. After hitting Lane Adams leading off the sixth, the lefty needed just five pitches to get through the inning, inducing a force out and a double play.

Kershaw received a huge ovation when he returned to the mound for the ninth inning, only to be removed before throwing a pitch. The Braves sent catcher Tyler Flowers to the plate and manager Dave Roberts immediately summoned Kenley Jansen from the bullpen. The Braves switched Flowers out for lefty Lucas Duda.

Roberts was furiously booed by the crowd for lifting his left-hander — after only 85 pitches — but Jansen pitched a scoreless ninth to seal the victory.

“It’s just more forcing Brian’s hand,” Roberts said. “If they would have brought Duda up there to face Clayton, he was going to face him. But for them to burn two players for one move, I felt that that was a way that you can use their two best hitters off the bench and get our guy in there.”

It was also about the ground ball off the bat of Ozzie Albies that hit Kershaw in the right leg in the fifth inning. It was tightening up a bit as the game progressed.

“If Duda had come up, I would have gotten Duda,” Kershaw confirmed. “But the plan all along was if they burned their bench, which is what we wanted to do and Flowers came out, that Kenley had the ninth. And that was the plan all along.”

When all was said and done, Kershaw struck out only three batters but didn’t walk anybody and induced a good amount of soft contact. The 30-year-old lowered his postseason ERA to 4.08, three scoreless innings shy of dropping it below four for the first time since pitching against the Braves in the 2013 NLDS.

“I think that it was one of -- for me, one of the best outings that I’ve seen that I can recall, in the sense that he used his complete repertoire of pitches,” Roberts said. “He used both sides of the plate. He changed eye levels effectively. And he really pitched.”

On offense, the Dodgers followed the script from Thursday night, jumping out to a first inning lead and not looking back. After Joc Pederson led off the home half with a double of his own, Manny Machado took a mighty hack at a 3-0 cutter, sending it into the left field pavilion for a 2-0 lead.

Machado now has four homers in his career against Aníbal Sánchez in 17 at-bats.

Yasmani Grandal added a solo shot in the fifth for his first homer of the postseason.

And there was this on a botched delayed steal attempt from Yasiel Puig:

Up Next

The series heads to SunTrust Park where the Dodgers will send Walker Buehler to the mound looking for the sweep over the Braves and right-hander Kevin Gausman.

Friday Particulars

Home Runs: Machado (1), Grandal (1)

WP: Clayton Kershaw (1-0): 8 IP, 2 hits, 3 strikeouts

LP: Aníbal Sánchez (0-1): 4 23 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts