Clayton Kershaw took the mound as We Are Young emanated across Chavez Ravine on a Saturday evening in late September. Swirling speculation surrounded the start of Kershaw’s final home start of the 2023 season. The idea of Kershaw’s career possibly coming to a conclusion after 16 incredible seasons with the Dodgers is one in which I’m not ready to face.
Kershaw’s fastball didn’t tick past 89-mph through the first two innings, but his slider was effective. He was also using his curveball early, and Mitch Haniger was the first victim of Public Enemy No. 1 in the top of the second inning.
Clayton Kershaw, Cooperstown Curveball. pic.twitter.com/QH3T3QTXtC— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 24, 2023
J.D. Martinez got the Dodgers on the board with his 31st home run of the season, a solo shot off San Francisco opener John Brebbia in the home half of the second.
J.D. can't be stopped! pic.twitter.com/hE0fJ3NbE3— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 24, 2023
Kershaw got run support from J.D. Martinez who drove in all three of the Dodgers’ runs. Some solid defense from Max Muncy at the hot corner and David Peralta in left field along with some very generous calls by home plate umpire Mike Estabrook also helped Kershaw’s cause.
Pitch clock violation. Foul off the inner foot. RBI double down the right field line. Martinez doesn’t only hit dingers. The Dodgers’ designated hitter’s 2-RBI double down the right field line gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead after three innings.
A run-saving sliding catch by David Peralta in left field ended the fifth.
David's got your back, Kersh. pic.twitter.com/mrINbZtx3E— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 24, 2023
The catch also saved Kershaw’s bacon who closed out five scoreless innings of work. The veteran ace only allowed two base hits, struck out five, and walked two on 76 pitches (46 strikes).
Freeman displayed the very dance named after him after he hit his 57th double of the season of old friend Ross Stripling. Muncy’s RBI single gave the Dodgers two runs in the frame and a 5-0 lead over their pumpkin-colored rivals.
Joe Kelly, Michael Grove and Caleb Ferguson pitched four scoreless frames following Kershaw to preserve the shutout and backup their veteran ace.
The Dodgers loaded the bases against Stripling with two outs in the bottom of the seventh, but the offense failed to capitalize on additional damage against the Giants. The Dodgers didn’t waste another scoring opportunity thereafter and knocked in another two runs in the bottom of the eight on doubles from Peralta and Betts to give L.A. a commanding 7-0 lead and eventual win over the Giants.
Mookie Betts now has the most RBI in a single-season by a Major League leadoff hitter — 105.— Dodger Insider (@DodgerInsider) September 24, 2023
The win clinched the bye for the Dodgers in the first round. The Dodgers’ first playoff game is NLDS Game 1 on October 7 at Dodger Stadium.
Home runs: J.D. Martinez (31)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (13-4): 5.0 IP, 0 runs, 2 hits, 5 K, 2 BB
LP — John Brebbia (3-2): 1.1 IP, 1 run, 1 hit, 1 K, 1 BB
Lance Lynn (12-11, 5.92 ERA, 2.20 HR/9) starts Sunday in the Dodgers’ regular season home finale. First pitch is at 4:10 p.m. PDT on ESPN.