LOS ANGELES — After taking the NL West with a 100-62 record, the Dodgers found themselves with a date against the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks in the NLDS. As he has done many times before, Clayton Kershaw took the mound in a game 1 start. It was one of Kershaw’s worst appearances in a while, as the Diamondbacks jumped on him for 6 runs and sent him off the mound after he retired just one batter. Their early lead would only continue to grow in the second, as Arizona tagged on 3 more runs and made it 9-0. The crowd at Dodger Stadium could only sit and watch in disappointment as the team would eventually fall 11-2 and go down 1-0 in the series.
Here are three takeaways from the loss:
Kershaw has a nightmare start
Clayton Kershaw took the mound as the game 1 starter on Saturday night, making the 31st postseason start of his career. It turned out to be a start that he and the rest of the team will want to forget and move on from as quickly as possible. Kershaw immediately ran into big trouble, as the Diamondbacks would smack 5 consecutive hits to start the game. The fifth one, Gabriel Moreno’s 3-run homer, would make it 5-0 Arizona and leave the Dodgers stunned early. 3 batters later, Evan Longoria would hit an RBI double to make it 6-0 and knock Kershaw out of the game for good.
In total, he would record just 1 out while allowing 6 runs on 6 hits. It was a disaster of a way to start the game for the Dodgers, and they were never able to climb out of the hole. For Kershaw, the start will just add more fuel to the fire that is the narrative of his inability to deliver clutch pitching in the postseason. His lifetime playoff ERA now stands at 4.22, while his record is 13-12. With the Dodgers now down 1-0 in the series, Kershaw will only be able to wait and hope that the team picks up the slack and plays well enough for him to get another shot on the mound to redeem himself.
Dodgers get shut down by Merrill Kelly
Saturday night’s game saw 2 starters take the mound and end up with very different outcomes. Unfortunately for the Dodgers, it was Arizona starter Merrill Kelly who brought his best stuff and kept Los Angeles from making any impact on offense. Kelly was able to pitch through the first 6.1 innings of the game while allowing no runs and striking out 5 batters. He would allow just 5 baserunners all night on 3 hits and 2 walks.
It was a clutch performance that assured there would be no chance for the Dodgers to make the game interesting. While their 10-0 lead behind him certainly made things more comfortable, Kelly maintained his focus and limited key players in the Dodger lineup from making things happen. Los Angeles will need to do a better job in the rest of the series at attacking starting pitching if they want to be the ones to set the tone and avoid the drama of making any comebacks. They simply can not afford to let players such as Kelly, who was making the first playoff appearance of his career, operate at such a high level if they want to come out on top.
Betts, Freeman go quiet in game 1
The 2 most impactful players in the Dodger lineup, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, did not produce any action for the team from the 1 and 2 spots in the batting order. While they did get on base 3 times courtesy of a few walks (2 for Freeman, 1 for Betts), the duo went a combined 0-5 from the plate and did no favors for Los Angeles as they would have needed a big offensive night to make things interesting. The only action on the night for the Dodgers would come in the 8th inning as Will Smith would hit an RBI triple to score the only 2 runs of the night. While the results of the game cannot be blamed on the offense, Betts and Freeman will be expected to come through much more often in the rest of the series. For Freeman, 2023 serves as his second playoff run with the Dodgers, and he will look to stay on track with his .357 average of the 2022 playoffs. As for Betts, his 2022 playoffs did not go as well. Betts hit .143 in the team’s series against the Padres and did not look like his usual self. The bottom line for the Dodgers going forward is that their success will widely depend on the ability of the star-studded duo to come through when it counts and prove why they have been in the NL MVP conversation all season long. While Saturday’s game was just the first of the series, the team cannot make a habit of scoring just 2 runs and expecting to come away with wins.
Game 2 of the series will take place at Dodger Stadium on Monday night as the team looks to come through with a crucial bounce-back win. The rookie Bobby Miller is scheduled to get the game 2 start as he squares off against another Arizona ace in Zac Gallen.
First pitch is scheduled for 6:07 p.m. PST.