A playoff opener worth waiting for: Dodger offense and Kershaw pound Braves, 6-1

For the first three innings of tonight’s National League Division Series opener, I listened to Vin Scully on the radio while watching the game with the sound on the TV off. The radio call was about seven seconds ahead of my television feed, which meant that Scully would paint a picture for me, and then I’d have a short and satisfying period of imagining it in my head before I’d see it in full color.

The Dodgers’ gratification wasn’t delayed much longer than mine was.

With two runs in the second inning and two more in the third quickly erasing the ennui of their sub-.500 September, Los Angeles bit into to a 4-0 lead on their way to a satisfying 6-1 victory to take a 1-0 NLDS lead over the Atlanta Braves.

Though the offense made the most noise, Clayton Kershaw had a night to remember. Almost as an afterthought, Kershaw struck out nine of his final 11 batters and finished with 12 whiffs, the most by a Dodger in the playoffs in 50 years and one day, since Sandy Koufax fanned a team-record 15 in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series.

Rk Player Date Series Gm# Tm Opp Rslt App,Dec IP H R ER BB SO
1 Sandy Koufax 1963-10-02 WS 1 LAD NYY W 5-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 6 2 2 3 15
2 Carl Erskine 1953-10-02 WS 3 BRO NYY W 3-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 6 2 2 3 14
3 Don Drysdale 1965-10-10 WS 4 LAD MIN W 7-2 CG 9 ,W 9.0 5 2 2 2 11
4 Don Newcombe 1949-10-05 WS 1 BRO NYY L 0-1 CG 9 ,L 8.0 5 1 1 0 11
5 Tim Belcher 1988-10-05 NLCS 2 LAD NYM W 6-3 GS-9 ,W 8.1 5 3 3 3 10
6 Sandy Koufax 1965-10-14 WS 7 LAD MIN W 2-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 3 0 0 3 10
7 Sandy Koufax 1965-10-11 WS 5 LAD MIN W 7-0 SHO9 ,W 9.0 4 0 0 1 10
8 Sal Maglie 1956-10-03 WS 1 BRO NYY W 6-3 CG 9 ,W 9.0 9 3 3 4 10

After going down on three Kris Medlen strikeouts in the first inning, nearly every note the Dodgers played tonight was a sweet one. And Yasiel Puig was arguably the conductor.

While nearly everyone was waiting to jab their fingers at Puig’s first mistake, the rookie Dodger outfielder showed them the much bigger picture of his abilities in a dynamic second inning. With one out, he singled to center in his first career playoff at-bat. After drawing several pickoff throws from Medlen, he roared all the way to third base on a single to center by Juan Uribe, seemingly catching Jason Heyward off guard. Puig then scored on a Skip Schumaker sacrifice fly, also to center, with Heyward being the one to make a poor throw home that allowed Uribe to take second base.

A.J. Ellis then ripped a ball to left field that a better outfielder than Evan Gattis would have caught, but instead it went past for an RBI double that doubled the Dodgers lead to 2-0.

To top things off, after Kershaw gave up a bloop single to Gattis in the bottom of the second inning, Puig helped put an end to it by catching a one-out fly ball and doubling off Gattis at first base.

Moments later, Carl Crawford singled to start the third and Adrian Gonzalez doubled the Dodgers’ lead with a two-run homer to dead center. And in the fourth, the Dodgers’ converted A.J. Ellis’ second double into their fourth two-out run of the game and a 5-0 lead when Mark Ellis singled him home.

Kershaw hardly had a perfect night. After needing only 23 pitches over the first two innings, he found himself pitching from behind in the count in the third and fourth. At one point, Brian McCann hit a fly ball near the wall in left field with two runners on that was worth a good scare. However, Crawford flagged it down, and though Kershaw subsequently allowed an RBI single to Chris Johnson, the Dodgers ended the inning still up 5-1.

The 25-year-old Dodger lefty soon hit his stride, striking out six batters in a row at one point, and with Hanley Ramirez doubling in another run, the Dodgers headed into the bottom of the seventh comfortably ahead, 6-1. Kershaw then took the mound despite already having 104 pitches to his name, pretty much eliminating any idea that the Dodgers would bring him back on three days’ rest for a potential Game 4 start Monday. (If there is a Game 5 on Wednesday, Kershaw would have five days’ rest.)

After a leadoff walk and with Paco Rodriguez warming up behind him, Kershaw struck out the final three batters in the inning to cap his 124-pitch night, having allowed but three singles and three walks.

Though the final 11 Dodger batters made outs (including Andre Ethier as a pinch-hitter for Kershaw in the eighth), it didn’t matter. Brian Wilson pitched a shutout eighth inning, and Kenley Jansen, getting his playoff feet wet (no doubt to the consternation of those worried about him being wasted) after throwing only 24 in-game pitches in the past nine days, allowed a walk and a bloop single but closed the door on the Braves in the ninth with three strikeouts.

It was a brilliant night for the Dodgers, but it will be a short one. Game 2 looms on the docket, 18 hours after tonight’s final out.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    10 MORE BABY!!!!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT
  • WinnipegDave

    Jon – I hate to be the gnat in the ointment but Kershaw needed (by my count) 28 pitches in the first two innings.
    Wonderful recap however, especially the trifecta of Vin’s voice, your imagination and the tv’s pictures.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Nice recap Jon

  • Alex7

    Thank you, Jon. From the Toaster to tomorrow, good night all!

  • scooplew

    Great quick and historical post. By the way, when Carl Erskine struck out 14 Yankees in the World Series 60 years ago yesterday, he fanned Mickey Mantle four times. Joe Collins four times as well.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT
    • ASW1

      I am stoked I have tomorrow off work!

      • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

        me too

        • TAFKA_Gagne55

          Me three! Ok, I’m still going to be working most of the day, but I don’t have to leave my apartment tomorrow, so I do work early in the day and push other work until after the game or on Saturday.

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Los Angeles Dodgers ‏@Dodgers14m
    RECAP: @ClaytonKersh22 Ks 12 over 7 stellar innings as #Dodgers take NLDS opener, 6-1. RECAP: http://atmlb.com/1bCjH67 pic.twitter.com/wCVSn3ypqP

  • Spence

    Kenley threw 25 pitches tonight. Maybe he wont be needed tomorrow.

    • ASW1

      No problem – Wilson only threw 12 – he can close.

  • NoahUCLA

    This is the playoffs. You don’t save Kershaw for a possible game 4 start and Kenley for a closer game. You win game 1 on the road with your best players and move on from there. One bad inning from the Beli/Withrow/Paco seventh inning folks and we maybe don’t win game 1. That could kill our season, so I think Mattingly made the right call in both cases. I would also be surprised if we don’t see Kenley tomorrow night if we’re ahead or close.

    • ASW1

      Not only that – it was a good decision just for the fact of getting Kenley’s feet wet in the playoffs in a non-pressure situation – so what if he threw 25 pitches – he hadn’t pitched in a week.

  • foul tip

    TBS recap crew said Kershaw’s 6 straight Ks broke Koufax’s record of 5, I believe. Don’t know if that was for playoffs or regular season.

    Recap also included, after a shot of Wilson, Olbermann saying, “somewhere a Renaissance Fair is missing its executioner.”

    • Bob_Hendley

      That would be Harang last year with 9 consecutive. How quickly we forget the forgettable ones.

      • foul tip

        At least you didn’t harangue me about it. ;-])

  • danreines

    Jon, listen to Vin via the MLB At Bat app on your phone — it’s got a lag to it, so the radio and TV will match. It’s time(d just right) for Dodger baseball!

    • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

      I was listening on the MLB at bat app and it was a good bit behind, but thanks to the dvr I was able to sync them up manually. It may lag differently for different folks.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      I experimented with that but it was so far behind, that if you have Twitter open, you still have a problem.

      • danreines

        How to solve the DVR/satellite/iPhone app/Twitter time sync. It’s a problem as old as baseball itself. Just as our parents struggled with it…

  • http://www.twitter.com/ElJefedor Jeffrey Thomas III

    Fantastic game, thoroughly enjoyed it! Ready for Greinke tomorrow afternoon to make it 2-0. What a joy it was watching Puig doing all the right things while Braves outfielders committed the costly errors!

  • RBI

    Can’t wait for the next one, though the nerves will still be there I’m sure. Such delicious agony!

  • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

    Chad Moriyama ‏@ChadMoriyama20m
    ICYMI – 2013 NLDS Game 1: Dodgers 6, Braves 1 – Kershaw, A-Gon, Wilson, Kemp GIFS http://www.chadmoriyama.com/2013/10/2013-nlds-game-1-dodgers-6-braves-1-kershaw-a-gon-wilson-kemp-gifs/

  • foul tip

    Gameday says Kenley threw only cutters last night. But he definitely started one batter with what looked like a curve–for a strike–which I don’t think he throws. Anyone know what it was?

    • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

      He threw a beautiful change up…incredible pitch

      • foul tip

        Great. Now opposing hitters will have even more to fear from him.

        • https://www.facebook.com/kmt59 KT

          yep…He’s been working on it…and he finally pulled it out and…IT WAS AWESOME!!!!

  • foul tip

    Well, the 15Ks by Dodger pitching matched what Koufax did in one game in 1963.

    Different time, different pitcher usage now. In 1963, Kershaw probably would have been left in to finish. At least even money he’d have matched Koufax’s 15 by himself.

    Not that he should have been. 124 pitches, up 6-1, is plenty. Not typical in that only 76 were strikes.

  • Jason Ungar

    Baseball is so great. It’s 4-0 and the announcers are like in this situation Kershaw has never lost and i was still frickin nervous.

    • Bumsrap

      4 – 0 and pitch count rising quickly

  • Branch_Rickey

    Wow, actually took Plashke a couple of months to write a column completely contradicting his own passionate viewpoint about Puig. Apparently one decent game was enough to convince him that Puig isn’t sure to ruin the postseason. He usually flips quicker than that- he must have felt really strongly about it.

    • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

      You’re giving him far too much credit. In the column, he says everyone knows Puig cost the Dodgers games this summer with his erratic play. What were those games?

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        “Few could argue that throughout the summer, Puig has cost the Dodgers runs, and even games, with baserunning blunders and fielding bravado. “

        • Branch_Rickey

          I think we’ve all reached this conclusion in the past but I believe he doesn’t have the slightest bit of belief in what he writes. He attempts to entertain with feigned passion but he truly doesn’t believe the things he says. I suppose that doesn’t matter to the Times and it could be argued that it shouldn’t matter to me. But as a regular reader it somehow makes me feel played. Hard to follow along with any of his passionate thoughts when you know they are disingenuous.

          • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

            I think because he shapes the national perception of the Dodgers, it’s relevant and that’s why it bothers me so much.

        • ASW1

          Plaschke must not watch the games. I cannot recall a single loss that Puig could be blamed for causing – that’s an awful reckless statement to be putting in print – Plaschke should be ashamed of himself.

      • foul tip

        If you sent him that same question, would you even get a reply?

        • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

          Can’t imagine I would.

  • foul tip
    • TAFKA_Gagne55

      I hope that means he’s confident in getting a deal with Alexander Guerrero.

  • ASW1

    Another reason to root for the Pirates this morning : Rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7, 3.22 ERA) – out of UCLA -taking the mound for the Bucs.

    • scooplew

      It was good to see the Bruins win a game last night that they could have lost. It helps when you intercept six passes.

      • ASW1

        Man, that 4th quarter was nerve-racking – especially after Utah recovered the onside kick – but, yeah, it was fitting that another interception by the Bruins ended Utah’s last chance at the game.

        • scooplew

          I went to UCLA before transferring to Cal, where I graduated. My daughter is a UCLA grad, and my late father earned his master’s and doctorate at UCLA. I root for the Bruins, except when they play Cal. And when the Bruins beat the Bears, as they will this year, I feel good for my daughter.

          • foul tip

            Any speculation yet on when a street or something near Southern Cal will
            be named “Kiffin Lane” in light of his great career accomplishments at USC?

            And all those in such a short time. Amazing!

          • ASW1

            Kiffin was a bad choice to lead the Trojans but his firing should have been handled with more class by Pat Haden.

          • foul tip

            His firing was handled with approximately the same amount of class as he handled his abrupt departure from Tennessee.

            Not that his staying would have worked out well.

          • Bumsrap

            Maybe a cul de sac

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        Amazing for a game to be that close with that many interceptions.

  • ASW1

    Beltran is a playoff BEAST.

  • http://www.linkmeister.com/wordpress/ Linkmeister

    Open Thread for non-Dodgers games today.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Same Dodgers lineup for Game 2 as Game 1 – just Greinke instead of Kershaw.

    • Jack Dawkins

      Hoping it leads to same result. A lot being made of the fact that Atlanta has all those lefties inthe lineup, but Greinke seems to do just fine against them.

    • Bumsrap

      Nice to be able to say “just” Greinke instead of Kershaw.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Gerrit Cole has retired 11 in a row. Pirates cruising through four.

    • Jack Dawkins

      Nice to see the Bucs recover from yesterday’s drubbing. Of course I dont expect the braves to be able to do this.

  • Jack Dawkins

    Seems a rather quick hook for Dusty. I thought this was a pretty good year for them.

    • btimmer

      The Reds ownership expected the team to win the Central. Not finish 3rd behind the Pirates. I don’t think Baker was overly popular with the fans.

    • ASW1

      Whether deserved or not, Dusty quietly building a reputation for not being able to guide his team through the postseason to win it all – who can forget handing the game ball to Russ Ortiz?

  • NoahUCLA

    Hanley says he tweaked his hammy last night when diving for a groundball. Let’s hope he’s okay. I know he’s in the lineup to play, but if he has even less range than usual at short and has AJ speed, then that could be a big deal. If Puig had done what Gattis did on the double play or flyball, everyone would be so know it all about how he should’ve stayed in the minors, he needs to grow up etc. That’s baseball sometimes. Heyward is young and missed the cutoff man and was caught sleeping by Puig and cost the Braves bases. Is anyone suggesting he go back to the minors. Sorry, but it is frustrating to hear nonsense about Puig.

  • ASW1

    I seem to remember a couple years ago, Milwaukee being all worried about making sure Greinke make his playoff starts at home rather than on the road because his home/away splits were so pronounced.
    While he has definitely pitched better at home than on the road this season, I don’t see the split being bad enough to warrant that level of concern :

    Home : 14 games, 8W, 2L, 2.11 ERA, 93.2 IP, .907 WHIP, 5.25 SO/BB

    Away : 14 games, 7W, 2L, 3.21 ERA, 84 IP, 1.345 WHIP, 2.13 SO/BB

    • foul tip

      Do you know how many of his away starts came before he got on the roll?

      • ASW1

        Good question, I don’t know the exact number, no. But, his 2nd half splits are much better than his 1st half, and of course he did go 5-0 in Aug with a 1.23 ERA.

  • ASW1

    Pirates putting just as much of a beating on St. Loo as St. Loo put on them in the 1st game.

  • Jack Dawkins

    Fenway a house of horrors for the Rays this inning.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    Disaster inning for Tampa Bay right now.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    I mean, you need to see this to believe it.

    • NoahUCLA

      Was it worse than the Pirates 3rd inning yesterday?

    • ASW1

      I didn’t see the play, but the Rays CFer apparently was camped out under a fly ball and then ran away, thinking he was called off but wasn’t?

      • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

        That’s what started it. But it only got worse.

        • Jack Dawkins

          For the Rays, I bet that frame felt like it took 5 hours, and that they had to get 20 outs.

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

    NPUT