Clayton Kershaw hesitates in playoffs again as Atlanta Braves push Los Angeles Dodgers to the brink

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ARLINGTON, Texas – Clayton Kershaw once again makes the slow march towards this isolated place of the canoe, this time a few kilometers from his hometown.The longtime Dodgers ace just can’t shake his playoff curse, not even on friendly ground in an on-site NL Championship Series.

Kershaw hesitated early in the sixth inning against Atlanta, allowing three straight hits before watching the remainder of a six-point explosion in the Braves’ 10-2 win in Game 4 Thursday night.

Kershaw’s 12th post-season loss, which beat Los Angeles 3-1 in the best of seven series at home of the Texas Rangers, on the verge of a second straight loss in the NLCS after posting the majors best record for the season shortened by the pandemic.

Launched two days after being struck out of an early Game 2 with back spasms, Kershaw allowed four runs in five-plus innings, taking his ERA playoff career to 4.31.

While the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner is also the club’s career leader in postseason wins with his 11-12 record, his October resume just doesn’t match his stellar numbers of regular season: 175-76 with an average of 2.43.

In Los Angeles’ seven trips to the NLCS over Kershaw’s 13 seasons, the Dallas native is 3-6 with a 4.84 ERA. And now the southpaw has been edged out by a rookie making his postseason debut: the 22-year-old Atlanta Game 4 winner, Bryse Wilson.

“I think he came out and five innings, one inning, again, what happened right there in that sixth inning, he gave us a chance to win the baseball game,” manager said. Dave Roberts. “We couldn’t put in points early and take a lead, or hold onto a lead. This account could not be further from the truth.

Kershaw took a 1-0 lead over Edwin Ríos’ circuit in the third, but gave it up on Marcell Ozunashot solo in the fourth, the first of two for Ozuna.

In the sixth, Ronald Acuña Jr.’s top chopper escaped the glove of a leaping Kershaw behind the mound for a single on the field. Freddie Freeman and Ozuna followed with back-to-back RBI doubles, and Kershaw finished Los Angeles’ third loss in four games since winning his first five in the playoffs.

“It would have been nice to get Acuna out,” Kershaw said. “Just part of the lawn game. He kind of cut that one off. Freddie, I had two hits on him. I have probably taken too many steps inside.

Kershaw had never pitched near his Dallas home before doing so twice in a week and a half in this unusual postseason, first without fans in an NL Division Series sweep from San Diego, then a crowd reduced in pandemic in the NLCS.

The eight-time All-Star recorded his 11th postseason victory in the Dodgers 6-5 win in Game 2 of the NLDS, but he was far from dominant. Manny machado and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back home runs to cut a 4-1 deficit.

One night after becoming the first team to score 11 runs in an inning and the first with 15 runs and five homers in the first three innings of a postseason game, the Dodgers had just three hits. The Ríos home circuit was their only blow before Kershaw left.

“Every time Kershaw gets on that mound you want to score 20,” said Ríos. “You want to score as many points as possible for him. It was a shame we weren’t able to do that tonight.

If the Hall of Fame is in its future, Kershaw won’t be alone among star pitchers who struggled in the playoffs.

Greg Maddux was 11-14 in the postseason, most of those decisions when Atlanta won just one World Series in a 14 straight NL East title streak. Randy Johnson was 7-9 and fellow left Steve Carlton was just 6-6.

Another left-hander, David Price, was 2-9 before winning his last three decisions for Boston when the Red Sox won the World Series two years ago.

Each of these pitchers has at least one title, however. Kershaw still does not have one despite the club’s record at the start of the series (28) and in sets (177 1/3).

Kershaw now has 11 career starts after the season, allowing for at least four points, tied with Maddux for second most. Only Andy Pettitte, another left-hander, has more.

Ozuna’s first home run in Game 4 was the 27th Kershaw allowed in the playoffs, breaking the tie with Justin Verlander in second position, also behind Pettitte (31).

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