It took more than five hours to accomplish their goal Tuesday night but the Dodgers won to even the series. With a quick turnaround, they hand the ball to Clayton Kershaw with an eye on taking the advantage in what is now a best-of-three scenario.
For all the weight the game carries in terms of the season, Game 5 could be the final time Kershaw takes the mound for the home team at Dodger Stadium. It’s been well-documented — especially recently — that the 30-year-old can opt out of the remaining two years of his contract.
It’s only human that it would loom large for someone who has spent all of his adult life in the Dodger organization.
“Trying not to,” Kershaw said about processing this moment differently because of the opt-out. “I think it’s hard enough to try and win a postseason game. I know more than anybody knows that.”
“So I think for me it’s just trying to focus as much as I possibly can on the Brewers and getting ready for tomorrow’s start. And putting everything else on the back burner as best I possibly can.”
Kershaw’s postseason this year has been a perfect example of what his career has looked like in October. The left-hander kept the Braves off the board for eight innings in Game 2 of the NLDS, his longest outing ever in the playoffs.
Then followed up with his shortest in Game 1 of this series, leaving after getting just nine outs and giving up what turned out to be five runs (four earned).
It goes without saying that the Dodgers could really use the guy from the dominant performance over Atlanta. But they just need him to be good in any case.
Wednesday will be the 22nd start of his career in the postseason, the most in Dodgers history by a long shot. Second on the list is Burt Hooton with 11. Kershaw has appeared in the NLCS six times in his 11 year career.
“I think with each postseason and not winning a World Series, I think you tack on a little bit more pressure,” Kershaw said. “A little bit more urgency to win, especially when you’re in the market that we’re in, when you’re with the team that we are. I think there becomes a little bit more pressure, for sure, just because we’ve had such a great team. And it’s been a long time since we’ve won one.”
Playoff highlights are plenty in Dodger Stadium due to the rich history of the franchise. It’s the 1988 team that usually gets top billing, both for it’s recency and magnitude. That was 30 years ago though and something Kershaw would like to add to.
“Yeah, definitely cognizant,” Kershaw explained about the weight of 30 years. “No disrespect to 1988, we hear about that a lot. And I’ve said it before, but we are sick of it. And it’s up to us to do something about it, obviously. We need to create some of our own history, for sure.”
“I think it stands as a testament to this organization that they have such great history, that they take a lot of pride in their history, which I’m thankful for. I’m thankful to be a part of that and be in this organization. But at the same time if we win one, we might not have to hear about it anymore, which would be awesome.”
No matter what the outcome of Wednesday’s game is, Kershaw is a big part of franchise history and it’s not lost on him.
“I’m incredibly grateful,” Kershaw said reflecting on his time with Los Angeles. “I’m just thankful that I’ve gotten to be here this long. I got drafted when I was 18. I got here when I was 20. From 20 to 30, that’s a lot of growing years right there. I’ve gotten married, had two kids, played a lot of baseball. And really have grown up in this city.
“The only word that comes to minds is just grateful. I really am. It’s been a great run. And whatever happens I’ll be thankful for that, always.”
When the season comes to a close, the left-hander will have a short time to make the decision of opting out or not. It’s hard not to wonder if that decision has already been made.
“I have not made a decision,” said Kershaw. “And to my understanding you get ten days after the World Series. So should be a busy ten days.”
Time: 2:05 p.m. PT