NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Dodgers needed a win. So did their ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw. Both got it.
Pitching on just three days rest, the 27-year-old gave up just three hits over seven innings as the Dodgers won 3-1 on Tuesday to level the National League Division Series 2-2 and force a decisive Game Five back in Los Angeles on Thursday.
“It felt good to get a win tonight,” Kershaw said, adding it “felt good to prove manager Don Mattingly was right” to stick with him despite his previous playoff shortfalls.
To think that Kershaw, the reigning National League most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner, had to prove himself with a win seems laughable at first.
Over the past five years, Kershaw has dominated the game with a lower earned run average and more strikeouts than any of his peers. Yet somehow, the left-hander managed to lose his last five playoff starts.
Few could argue with Kershaw’s performance in the regular season. With 114 wins and only 56 losses in eight seasons, he’s won three Cy Youngs along with his MVP honors.
But before Tuesday, his sparkling 2.43 career regular season ERA had ballooned in October to 4.99 as he managed only one win in seven post-season starts.
The past two seasons have seen the Dodgers beaten by the St. Louis Cardinals in games where Kershaw was on the mound.
Sometimes it was bad pitching, sometimes just bad luck.
Either way, the Dodgers made sure that there would not be any bad memories of this game for Kershaw with a three-run outburst in the third inning that began with a Kershaw single.
Kershaw did the rest from there, at one point striking out six of seven batters as he threw 94 pitches, 64 of them for strikes.
“We didn’t have any doubt in our minds that we still had a chance in this series with Clayton on the mound,” said center fielder Enrique Hernandez.
“Once we got those three runs we were feeling pretty good about ourselves.”
Kershaw’s only mistake on Tuesday was a fourth inning cut fastball that Mets second baseman Daniel Murphy hit for a solo home run.
“He picked us up when we needed it the most. With Clayton out there doing what he did tonight, that was enough,” said second baseman Howie Kendrick.
Editing by Larry Fine