The leaves are starting to change and the air’s getting cooler, so that means it’s once again time to parse another rough postseason outing by Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers lost Game 4 when the Braves put up a six-run sixth inning against Kershaw, Brusdar Graterol, and Victor González. Every year, Kershaw has a start that appears to put the Playoff Kershaw narrative to rest, but every year, Dave Roberts tries to get just a little too much out of his ace and it backfires.
Maybe the bullpen was always going to melt down and maybe the Dodgers were never going to score more than two runs, but one has to wonder if things might have turned out differently if Kershaw hadn’t been allowed to face Marcell Ozuna. Kershaw, who had been scratched from the previous two games with back spasm, had thrown 81 pitches and never looked like he had his best stuff.
To open the game, Kershaw was throwing his fastball and slider with only a mile or two of separation. Through the first seven innings, he allowed six hard hit balls and was perhaps a bit fortunate that many of those found gloves. In the sixth, Kershaw had visibly lost feel, missing badly on two pitches to Ronald Acuña Jr. that bounced well in front of home plate.
Acuña eventually reached on an infield hit and Freddie Freeman doubled him home. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts dismissed the double that Freeman hit saying it was ground ball single that turned into a double because of defensive positioning. Roberts ignored that it was hit at 105.5 mph.
"by the first baseman. We had Freeman played way over in the gap and it turns a single into a double. I thought Kershaw was throwing the ball really well and there was no reason (to take him out). I felt really good about it." 2/2— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) October 16, 2020
So Roberts left Kershaw in to face Ozuna who had already homered off Kershaw earlier in the game. No doubt Roberts wanted to squeeze another inning out of his ace in the middle of what would be seven games in seven days should the Dodgers win the series. Roberts’ live by the ace, die by the ace mentality isn’t too far from keeping the closer in a glass case for a save situation. It ignores the context of the game state and it shows an unwillingness to adapt.
Kershaw might be the best pitcher of the generation, but last night he wasn’t at his best, he was going through the top of the order for a third time, and back spasms had kept him from pitching the past two days. Again, maybe the outcome of the game doesn’t change if Graterol starts the sixth fresh, but there’s no way Kershaw was the most effective pitcher for that situation.
Ultimately, Kershaw ended up with another ugly line, but this was just another instance of him being put in a position to fail.
Meg Rowley | FanGraphs: The Braves gave up 11 runs in the first inning of Game 3, and boy, isn’t that embarrassing?
Ben Lindbergh | The Ringer: Teams that outhomer their opponents are 27-3 in this postseason. Is this unusual? Are homers better than they used to be? Are they too good?
Emma Baccellieri | Sports Illustrated: The Playoff Kershaw Narrative will never ever, ever leave us. It is our Sisyphean fate to engage in discourse RE: The Narrative every October so engage we shall.