The Los Angeles Dodgers scored two runs in the top of the second inning, and with Clayton Kershaw on the mound, that's all the insurance that would be necessary.
Don Mattingly's squad would add several more runs to easily take Game 1 of the NLDS from the Atlanta Braves, 6-1, on Wednesday night from Turner Field.
Kershaw, who will be the 2013 NL Cy Young Award winner (unless every voter happens to be from the C.J. Ross School of Judging), lasted 7.0 innings and gave up three hits, three walks and one earned run to go with 12 strikeouts.
As Michael Martinez noted on FoxSportsWest.com, Kershaw wasn't his normal, efficient self. But L.A.'s 25-year-old ace still had more than enough to pull off the W and will have plenty rest before his next start:
Kershaw didn't have much confidence in his curveball -- the lone exception was a big hook that froze pinch-hitter B.J. Upton in the fifth -- and he bounced too many sliders in the dirt. But he still struck out 12, the most by a Dodgers pitcher since Sandy Koufax fanned 15 Yankees in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series. [...]
In seven innings, Kershaw threw 124 pitches, just eight fewer than his career high set in May, but he wouldn't pitch again unless there's a Game 5 on Wednesday, giving him five days' rest between starts.
And the Los Angeles bats got to Braves starter Kris Medlen early and often. After Skip Schumaker drove in Yasiel Puig on a sac fly and A.J. Ellis added an RBI double in the second inning, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez added the big hit in the third.
With Carl Crawford on second, Gonzo went, well, gonzo with this 411-foot shot:
Medlen gave up another run in the fourth , allowed a single to Gonzalez to lead off the fifth, and hit Puig on the very next pitch, finally ending his miserable night. His final line was nightmarish: 4.0-plus innings, nine hits, one walk, five earned runs, four strikeouts.
Luis Ayala did a good job in relief, but Jordan Walden gave up another couple hits in the top of the sixth, including Hanley Ramirez's RBI double to make it 6-1 for the visitors. That forced Grantland's Rembert Browne to wonder what it was he was actually watching:
The Dodgers finished with 11 hits, as Mark Ellis, A.J. Ellis, Puig and Gonzalez all recorded multiple base knocks.
Chris Johnson added the lone RBI for Atlanta with a two-out single to score Freddie Freeman in the fourth inning. But Kershaw responded by striking out the next six, and nine of 11, to end his night.
Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen each pitched a scoreless inning to finish off the no-nonsense road victory.
Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers: A
By Kershaw's lofty standards, this was probably more like a "C." And I only say that because he needed so many pitches to get through seven innings and struggled a little bit with his control in the third and fourth innings.
Nevertheless, he eventually settled into a very Kershaw-esque groove, striking out eight and giving up just one walk in his last three innings:
Kris Medlen, Braves: D
Medlen was going to have to be pretty much perfect to keep pace with Kershaw and the Dodgers, and he was essentially the opposite.
After striking out the side in the first inning, things quickly fell apart, as he gave up at least one run in each of the other three frames he pitched.
It's unfair to ask perfection of Medlen, who had a very good season, but he needs to give the Braves more than four ineffective innings if he gets another chance on the mound.
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers: A-
Plenty of Dodgers hitters deserve credit here. A.J. Ellis had two doubles, Gonzalez had the big home run, and five different players drove in a run.
But what a debut for the 22-year-old rookie.
Puig reached base three times. He had two singles, one HBP and one run scored. Defensively, he had an assist.
With Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier both out with injury (the latter pinch-hit for Kershaw in the eighth), the youngster came through with an impressive all-around performance.
Evan Gattis, Braves: C
On the one hand, he had one hit and reached base twice off Kershaw, the only Braves player to do so. On the other, he made this early defensive miscue:
And this egregioius base-running mistake:
The Braves need Gattis' power bat in the lineup, but it won't be easy when he's making plays like those outside of the batter's box.