The Los Angeles Dodgers relied on strong pitching and slugging in Game 1 of the 2018 National League Division Series, and that was the case again Friday in a 3-0 win over the Atlanta Braves. Clayton Kershaw reached the eighth inning for the first time in 20 career postseason starts.
While much was made of the decision to start Hyun-Jin Ryu over Kershaw in Game 1, both pitchers turned in stellar performances to help the Dodgers take a commanding 2-0 lead in the NLDS.
The start of Kershaw’s outing didn’t exactly suggest that would be the case, as Ronald Acuña Jr. opened the game with a ringing double to the left-center field gap. However, Kershaw retired the next three batters to strand Acuña at third base.
That was part of the left-handed ace setting down 14 in a row. Kershaw didn’t do so with some of the power and dominance as years past, but he successfully avoided barrels throughout the night.
A two-out infield single in the fifth inning was Braves’ first hit since Acuña’s double. It was also their last against Kershaw. Even when Atlanta managed a gift baserunner — on a hit by pitch to start the sixth — they couldn’t get out of their own way.
A force out followed and then a double play, allowing Kershaw to get through the inning on a mere six pitches. He wound up needing just 85 pitches to toss eight shutout innings. Kershaw took the mound to warm up for the ninth but never faced a batter.
He was removed in favor of Kenley Jansen, and received a standing ovation on his way off the field.
Just like they did in Game 1, the Dodgers provided early run support by striking in the first inning. Joc Pederson’s leadoff double was nearly stranded but Manny Machado hit a fourth career home run (regular season included) off Anibal Sanchez.
Considering that Machado has seemingly had Sanchez’s number, the veteran right-hander largely pitched around the All-Star shortstop. That led to a 3-0 count that Sanchez offset with a mistake pitch. The home run surrendered on such a count marked a first in his career.
To his credit, Sanchez managed to settle in after that. He then was hurt by another mistake as an 0-2 pitch to Yasmani Grandal was crushed halfway up the pavilion in right field for a leadoff home run in the bottom of the fifth.
The win was the Dodgers’ seventh in a row in the NLDS. The streak dates back to Game 5 in 2016 when they defeated the Washington Nationals on the road. The back-to-back shutouts in postseason games marked a first for the Braves, and just the second time in franchise history the Dodgers completed as much.
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