The Los Angeles Dodgers begin postseason play on Friday night when they host the Arizona Diamondbacks in Game 1 of the National League Division Series. Clayton Kershaw will be on the mound, just as he has in each of the previous four NLDS openers.
In those outings, the three-time Cy Young Award winner posted a 5.33 ERA and 1.22 WHIP over 25.1 innings with 40 strikeouts to eight walks. “I know what to expect, I guess, which is always a good thing,” Kershaw said when asked about his previous experience heading into his 19th career postseason start.
“But other than that, I think every situation is different and every year is a little bit unique as far as who we face and how our team sizes up. But thankful for another opportunity.
“It doesn’t happen often when your team wins five (division titles) in a row. It doesn’t happen when you getting to to the playoffs that often. I don’t feel like I take it for granted.”
While Kershaw has put together solid performances in recent playoff battles — including a series-clinching save in Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS against the Washington Nationals — he has also encountered some bumps along the way.
In Game 4 of the same series, an elimination game for the Dodgers, Kershaw was charged with five runs in 6.2 innings. While Los Angeles still won to force a Game 5 on the road, it was the most runs he’s yielded in a postseason start since Game 1 of the 2014 NLDS against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he gave up eight in 6.2 frames.
Despite some struggles every now and then, Kershaw hasn’t changed his mental approach heading into Friday’s start against the Diamondbacks. “Same approach and same demeanor, probably, yeah,” he said.
When asked if there is a different sense of urgency for the club this year, Kershaw added that the group is “just trying to win 11 games.”
It was a historic regular season for the Dodgers, who won a Major League-best 104 games — the highest total for the club since its inaugural season in Los Angeles in 1958 — and ensuring home-field advantage through the World Series.
That kind of success naturally comes with a heightened sense of pressure to perform, but Kershaw doesn’t see it that way. “I think, yeah, we did win a lot of games this year, no doubt. But I don’t think anybody cares about that anymore,” he said.
“Diamondbacks had a great year too. They won a lot of games. So it’s a race to the first of three and then move on from there.”