Dodgers News: Adrian Gonzalez, Dave Roberts Defend Clayton Kershaw Against Postseason Narrative
Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Clayton Kershaw, winner of three National League Cy Young Awards, the 2014 NL MVP Award, and multiple ERA titles, has been haunted throughout his career by the perception he’s unable to succeed in the postseason.

Leading the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staff and willing to take the ball in any game, at any moment, had backfired one too many times. A bullpen failing to strand inherited runners didn’t do any favors.

Kershaw wasn’t overly sharp against the Washington Nationals in Game 1 of the NL Division Series. He allowed three runs on eight hits and threw 101 pitches through a laborious five innings of work.

The whispers grew louder. The postseason narrative lived another day. But with the Dodgers facing elimination in Game 4, they turned to Kershaw on short rest in the playoffs a fourth straight year.

His line of five runs allowed in 6.2 innings was not indicative of Kershaw’s outing. He exited with a 5-2 lead and the bases loaded. All three runners scored.

Los Angeles managed to come away with a one-run victory to force a winner-take-all Game 5. Kershaw would “absolutely not” pitch, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said prior to the start. But Kenley Jansen was called on in the seventh inning, and lo and behold Kershaw began to warm up.

Two days after throwing 110 pitches on short rest, he entered with one out in the bottom of the ninth inning. Kershaw dispatched of Daniel Murphy, the Dodgers’ postseason nemesis, and Wilmer Difo, to send Los Angeles to the NL Championship Series.

On the mound a third time in the past six days, Kershaw turned in a gem. He was perfect through four innings, and held the Chicago Cubs scoreless over seven innings. Javier Baez put a scare in Kershaw and the Dodgers, but he once again exorcised his seventh-inning demons.

“I have said it time and time again, he’s the best pitcher on the planet. And so for me, the history, it has no bearing on anything for me,” Roberts said after Game 2.

“This is a new year, and he’s shown what he can do in the postseason. So I don’t think that anybody in that clubhouse cares about that narrative. And he’s shown he’s all in for his teammates, and that’s all we care about.”

Kershaw’s season was in doubt when he suffered a mild disc herniation in late June that forced him to miss all of July and August. Yasmani Grandal noted the improvement seen over the final month of the regular season.

“He’s done an unbelievable job this postseason,” Grandal told Tom Verducci on Fox Sports 1. “Coming back from the low-back injury and just getting better at the end of the year and toward the postseason. That goes to show why he’s one of the best pitchers in the league.”

Jansen followed Kershaw in Game 2 by converting the first six-out save of his career. That was two days after he threw a career high 2.1 innings and 51 pitches.

“Seeing how Kersh went out there again, it just shows you he’s the best in the game,” Jansen told Jon Morosi on MLB Network. “He put the whole team on his back and carried us to a win.”

Adrian Gonzalez, who has been teammates with Kershaw for the Dodgers’ run of four NL West titles, noted the club’s unwavering faith in the club’s ace. “We’re so confident when he’s out there,” Gonzalez said during a postgame interview on FS1.

“We like to call it ‘Kershaw Day,’ because he’s our horse. He’s our guy. He can go out there and shut a team down. Kershaw is the best pitcher in baseball for a reason.”