Clayton Kershaw Is a Narrative Killer
If you have been following the Major League playoffs thus far, you are aware of the Clayton Kershaw narrative. You know, the one where, once the calendar flips to October, he goes from being one of the most dominant pitchers in the sport to a guy who totally stinks.
Ahead of Game 4 of the National League Division Series between the Dodgers and the Mets, there were those who were saying Kershaw needed to deliver a special performance. He needed not only to pitch well but pitch like Clayton Kershaw normally pitches -- on three days' rest no less.
Kershaw, according to the narrative, needed to prove he wasn't lousy.
In that pivotal Game 4, a 3-1 Dodgers win that evened the best-of-5 series at two games apiece, the lefty was flat-out dominant, pitching 7 innings and giving up 1 run on 3 hits with 8 strikeouts and 1 walk, needing just 94 pitches.
Is that enough of a signature performance for you?
Kershaw threw his fastball harder in Game 1 than any other game this yr (94.4 mph avg). He's at 94.5 mph so far tonight on 3 days' rest.
— Inside Edge (@InsideEdgeScout) October 14, 2015
And this isn't the first time Kershaw has pitched a playoff game on short rest. Tuesday night was the third time he had done so, and one could say he'd done pretty well doing that.
Clayton Kershaw, 3 playoff starts on 3 days rest: 1.89 ERA, 19 IP, 4 BB, 23 K. #Dodgers
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) October 14, 2015
His last attempt at pitching on short rest was in last year's NLDS against the Cardinals, also in Game 4. Kershaw was pitching brilliantly, throwing a shutout through six innings. But the seventh inning was his undoing, with Matt Adams blasting a 3-run homer that gave St. Louis a 3-2 win and the series victory. And in Game 1 of that series, Kershaw entered the seventh with a seemingly insurmountable 6-2 lead but inexplicably allowed 6 earned runs and watched as the bullpen allowed 2 more in that inning to give the Cardinals a shocking 10-9 victory.
So needless to say, his scoreless seventh inning against New York was pretty much a welcome narrative killer.
Look, let's not sugarcoat it, either. Kershaw's postseason performances had not matched up with how terrific he has been in the regular season. His 1-6 career postseason record made him one of six pitchers with a career playoff record at least five games below .500, according to Elias, and his postseason ERA of 4.99 was simply not very good. Throw in those late-game meltdowns, and you have a stud pitcher who suddenly loses his ability to pitch on baseball's biggest stage.
But let's not forget about the randomness of the postseason and look at some of his other numbers. After Tuesday's Game 4 win, Kershaw had accumulated 64 2/3 innings, struck out 77 batters and walked just 23. All it takes in the playoffs is for a couple of missed spots here and a little bad luck there for a pitcher's results to get totally skewed.
As we saw on Tuesday night, in Game 4, on the road, in an elimination game, on short rest, Clayton Kershaw is capable of being Clayton Kershaw. And because of it, a silly narrative, and the New York Mets were defeated.
With one more victory on Thursday, Los Angeles and Kershaw can try to continue destroying storylines.