The Los Angeles Dodgers didn’t shy away from discussing the disappointment that came with getting eliminated from the postseason last October by the Chicago Cubs. Now they begin their quest for redemption, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound for Game 1 of the National League Division Series.
Los Angeles finished 104-58 this season, good for the best record in the Majors and home-field advantage through the World Series. Their NLDS matchup with the Arizona Diamondbacks marks the first playoff meeting between the two NL West teams.
The Diamondbacks won 11 of the 19 regular-season matchups but they unable to solve Kershaw, who went 2-0 with a 0.59 ERA and 0.59 WHIP in two starts. He had 19 strikeouts against just three walks over 15.1 innings pitched in those games.
“There are no secrets, for sure,” Kershaw said of facing a divisional opponent. “I think when it comes down to it, you just go out there and try to compete and just be better than them. You’re not going to outthink them.
“You’re not going to out this or that. They know what you do. I know what they do. At the end of the day, you have to go out there and compete.”
The start in Game 1 of the NLDS is Kershaw’s fifth in as many years. He’s 2-2 with a 5.33 ERA in such starts thus far. Overall in the postseason, the Dodgers ace is 4-7 with a 4.55 ERA and 1.16 WHIP in 18 games (14 starts).
“I know what to expect, I guess, which is always a good thing,” Kershaw said of his playoff experience. “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.”
Because they needed Robbie Ray in relief during the NL Wild Card Game, the Diamondbacks send Taijuan Walker to the mound for his postseason debut. The 25-year-old went 9-9 with a 3.49 ERA, 4.04 FIP and 1.33 WHIP in his first season with Arizona.
Walker was 2-0 with a 3.24 ERA and 1.20 WHIP in three starts against the Dodgers, with both victories coming at Dodger Stadium. “I’ve done my research,” he said of the Game 1 start. “I’ve faced them a couple times this year, so they’ve seen me a little bit too. So I think it should be a pretty good matchup.”
Walker faces a Dodgers lineup that resembles what it did during the regular season when they faced a right-hander. The usual four suspects — Chris Taylor, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Cody Bellinger — are in order, and Yasiel Puig is batting cleanup.
The Diamondbacks continue to decide against allowing Jake Lamb to be in the lineup for a game in which Kershaw is starting. Adam Rosales is at third base, and Brandon Drury replaces Daniel Descalso at second base.
The Dodgers have 13 position players, including a third catcher, and 12 pitchers, on their NLDS roster. While the Diamondbacks opted for 14 position players and 11 pitchers.
CF: Chris Taylor
SS: Corey Seager
3B: Justin Turner
1B: Cody Bellinger
RF: Yasiel Puig
LF: Curtis Granderson
C: Yasmani Grandal
2B: Logan Forsythe
P: Clayton Kershaw
LF: David Peralta
CF: A.J. Pollock
1B: Paul Goldschmidt
RF: J.D. Martinez
2B: Brandon Drury
3B: Adam Rosales
SS: Ketel Marte
C: Jeff Mathis
P: Taijuan Walker