Losers of two straight to the Chicago Cubs and with the National League Championship Series returning to Wrigley Field, the Los Angeles Dodgers undeniably faced an uphill battle. But they found comfort in knowing Clayton Kershaw was taking the hill in Game 6 on five days’ rest.
That proved to be a non-factor, as the Cubs took a 1-0 lead a mere two batters into the bottom of the first inning. They pounded Kershaw for five runs (four earned) on seven hits, including two homers, in just five innings.
Kershaw’s outing was nothing close to the dominance he displayed in Game 2 of the NLCS, or in Game 5 of the NL Division Series when he earned a save two days after starting on short rest.
Kershaw suffered the loss that ended the Dodgers’ season a third time in the past four Octobers. “This day is never fun, the ending of the season,” he said during an interview seen on SportsNet LA.
“You look back and think about the season as a whole, it’s tough to swallow tonight, but I’d much rather be in this situation and fail than not get to be in this situation at all.
“As much as this does hurt, as much as I would have liked to have won tonight, I’m really thankful to be on a team that’s gotten to be in the postseason four years in a row. I’m really thankful for the group of guys in the clubhouse, who have your back in these situations.”
The Dodgers needed Kershaw to deliver the type of outing that’s earned him three Cy Young Awards and one NL MVP. He failed to get a grip on his curveball and the slider lacked enough bite on a chilly night at Wrigley Field.
“I think I threw one curveball for a strike the whole game, so they basically eliminated that pitch,” Kershaw said. “Pitching with two pitches, the command wasn’t quite as good as it was the other day.”
Kershaw stopped short of using lack of command, or the mild disc herniation that cost him two months this season, as excuses for a subpar outing in the elimination game. “I felt good, 100 percent. Just got beat,” he said.
Truth be told, Kershaw needed to be perfect — an unfair expectation when facing a Cubs lineup that suddenly hit its stride.
Kyle Hendricks allowed a base hit on his first pitch of the game. The Dodgers’ next hit didn’t come until a one-out single in the eighth. Josh Reddick reached on an error in the second inning, and was soon after picked off first base to end the frame.
Although the Dodgers fell short of their goal and are enduring a World Series drought of their own, the obstacles they managed to overcome were not lost on Kershaw.
“Our team went through a lot this year. A lot of guys went down, guys grinding their way through it, playing the whole year even though they were banged up,” he said. “Our position players, there weren’t that many injuries. Those guys played a lot.”