Clayton Kershaw is the greatest pitcher of this generation. The 29-year-old out of Dallas could quit the game tomorrow and still be considered an all-time great.
The 7-time All-Star has one MVP Award, three Cy Young Awards, has led the National League in wins and strikeouts on three separate occasions, and also has led the National League in ERA a whopping five times.
Blessed with pin-point accuracy, a wipe-out slider, an above-average fastball and a wicked 12-to-6 curveball, Kershaw simply has it all. From a regular season standpoint, few historically can be considered in the same breath.
When it comes to the postseason, it’s been a far different story. Many analysts, pundits, and former players have been hesitant to instantly vault Kershaw atop the rarefied air of the pitching mountain. This is simply due to his playoff struggles.
Kershaw sports a career 4.16 ERA in postseason play. When the dreaded seventh inning comes, Kershaw’s ERA tends to balloon. The St. Louis Cardinals have contributed greatly to his rather inflated earned run average. Kershaw has faced the Cardinals three times in the postseason. His collective ERA sits at 5.60. Kershaw unsurprisingly went 0-4 during this time period.
There have been moments in which he’s been on top of his game. He heroically came in during Game 5 of last year’s NLDS versus the Washington Nationals. He was stellar against the Mets in 2015, and also pitched well this postseason when battling the Arizona Diamondbacks.
However, we’ve yet to see a signature Kershaw performance. The Dodgers and the fan base alike have been wanting to see a dominating game in which Kershaw renders the opponent useless.
On Tuesday evening, Kershaw finally delivered such a performance on the biggest stage possible. In Game 1 of the World Series, Kershaw held the Astros to one run and three hits in seven innings. He struck out 11, and did not walk a batter. It was truly a masterful job by Kershaw — as he manipulated all parts of the strike-zone with a potent fastball and terrific command of his off-speed pitches.
There are some answers as to why Kershaw dominated the best offense in all of baseball. For one, he simply is that good. His talent level is unparalleled with any other starting pitcher today. Secondly, manager Dave Roberts has done a fantastic job of getting him — and all of his starters — ample rest. None of them have had to throw on short rest throughout the playoffs.
Lastly, the bullpen is a major strength. Kershaw has never been afforded an assortment of reinforcements like the one he’s currently pitching in front of. In past postseasons, he’d be stretched simply due to the lack of faith in the Dodgers’ bullpen. This is no longer a worry — as the likes of Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Rich Hill, and Alex Wood can go five or six innings as hard as they can. After that, Roberts will turn it over to his lethal combination of relievers.
This result was huge for both the team and Kershaw’s psyche. Going forward, Kershaw will have even more confidence when/if he takes the mound again in this series.
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