Published 9:40 PM EDT Oct 12, 2018
MILWAUKEE – Clayton Kershaw’s mixed track record in the postseason took a shocking turn toward the ignominious in Game 1 of the National League Championship Series.
The Los Angeles Dodgers lefty and three-time Cy Young Award winner yielded a game-tying home run to Milwaukee Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff in the bottom of the third inning.
And just how unlikely was that?
Woodruff has just 18 career at-bats, although he did homer earlier this season and is 4 for 18 (.222) lifetime. However, this blast cut particularly deep because the Brewers were attacking the Dodgers from a most unorthodox standpoint: Giving Gio Gonzalez a start to neutralize the Dodgers’ left-handed bats out of the gate, fully expecting Gonzalez – who made just five regular-season starts for them and did not pitch in the NL Division Series – would not be long for the game.
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Sure enough, he got just six outs, and didn’t even get a chance to bat before he was yanked from the game by manager Craig Counsell.
Woodruff followed the soft-tossing lefty by blowing 96-mph heat by the Dodgers, but here was a bug in Counsell’s strategy: Woodruff would have to lead off the bottom of the third inning.
Kershaw, whose fastball velocity has decreased from 93.6 mph in 2015 to 90.9 this season, had recorded just two swings and misses to that point. And it looked for all the world that Woodruff was content to leave the bat on his shoulder.
Finally, on a 2-2 count, he fouled off a 91-mph fastball. The next pitch came in at 92 mph.
It landed well beyond the fence in right field.
Woodruff windmilled his arms as he rounded second to incite the Miller Park crowd, which needed no such encouragement, and things went further south for Kershaw and battery mate Yasmani Grandal that inning.
The Dodgers would have escaped the inning with a 1-1 tie, but Grandal committed a catcher’s interference on a lineout by Jesus Aguilar. He also committed his second passed ball of the night and committed another error on a throw from the outfield.
By inning’s end, it was 2-1 Brewers. More notably, it was advantage, Brewers’ Gang of Pitchers over the Dodgers’ erstwhile ace.