Clayton Kershaw struck out 13 batters over eight shutout innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the visiting Milwaukee Brewers 3-0 in Game 2 of the National League Wild Card Series on Thursday at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers swept the Brewers in the best-of-three series after defeating Milwaukee 4-2 on Wednesday.
They've advanced to the NL Division Series for the eighth straight season behind a gem from Kershaw, who allowed just four baserunners off three singles and one walk.
L.A. scored its three runs in the fifth inning off an Austin Barnes RBI single and a Mookie Betts two-RBI double. Betts registered the only extra-base hit of the night for either team.
Brewers SP Brandon Woodruff (Loss): 4.2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 9 K
Brewers 3B Luis Urias: 1-for-2, 1B, BB
Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw (Win): 8.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 13 K
Dodgers RP Brusdar Graterol (Save): 1.0 IP, 1 H, 0 ER
Dodgers OF Mookie Betts: 1-for-3, 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Dodgers 2B/OF Chris Taylor: 2-for-3, R
Dodgers C Austin Barnes: 2-for-3, R, RBI
Brewers Can't Solve Kershaw's Breaking Ball
There isn't much to say about Kershaw's performance other than that it was an absolute masterpiece which ended with Brewers batters flummoxed over the left-hander's breaking balls.
You can view all 13 strikeout pitches here:
Plenty of others have struggled against Kershaw during a career that has included three NL Cy Young awards, five NL ERA titles, a pitching Triple Crown and an MVP, so the Brewers certainly aren't alone.
However, Kershaw was historically phenomenal and near-untouchable, as various statistics showed:
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
Clayton Kershaw leaves Game 2 with 13 strikeouts via breaking balls, the most by any pitcher, reg. season or playoffs, since 2016. 13 is the 3rd-most strikeouts in a game in Dodgers postseason history and the most since Sandy Koufax in the 1963 World Series (15). https://t.co/cJA3TOREhJ
Kershaw made a habit of either freezing hitters or inducing weak hacks all evening. He notably struck out Avisail Garcia, 2018 NL MVP Christian Yelich and Jedd Gyorko, who comprised the top three in the Brewers' lineup, a combined seven times.
Only two Brewers reached second base.
One of the four baserunners Kershaw allowed, Luis Urias, was picked off in the eighth inning. On the next pitch, Kershaw struck out David Freitas to end his outing.
Remarkably, Kershaw needed just 93 pitches for his eight shutout innings and 13 strikeouts. He could have easily finished off the night with a complete-game shutout, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts opted to go to the bullpen. That plan worked as Milwaukee never launched a serious threat in the top of the ninth.
More work must be done for L.A. to finally win the World Series that has proven elusive since the team last won the Fall Classic in 1988 behind NL MVP Kirk Gibson's heroics, but if Thursday is any indication, this Dodgers team can ride another hero in the form Kershaw to the World Series.
L.A. may not need to do that given the batting order's strength, but if the bats go cold, Kershaw could be there to save the day when his number is called.
Barnes Provides Only Offense Kershaw Needs, and Betts Buys Insurance
Lost in the shuffle of Kershaw's gem is the fact that Brewers starting pitcher Brandon Woodruff was arguably better than his opposition through four innings, allowing just one baserunner off a single and striking out eight.
However, Woodruff found himself in trouble in the fifth and could not survive the inning.
He struck out Will Smith to start the frame, but back-to-back singles from Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor set the Dodgers up. AJ Pollock moved the runners over to second and third with two out, bringing up Austin Barnes, who had the Dodgers' only hit through four innings.
Barnes proved to be Woodruff's foil once again with a single to put the Dodgers up 1-0:
That brought up Betts, and he sent Woodruff to the showers with a double down the left-field line to score a pair:
Betts, the 2018 American League MVP with the Boston Red Sox, shined in the Wild Card Series by going 3-for-7 with three doubles, three RBI, a walk and a run. That's a productive series considering L.A. scored just seven runs in the two games, with Betts pacing the offense.
ESPN Stats & Info @ESPNStatsInfo
This is Mookie Betts' 2nd career playoff game with multiple RBI (2018 ALDS Game 3 at Yankees). Betts has 3 RBI this series, the rest of the Dodgers have 4. He also has 3 extra-base hits (all doubles); the rest of the team has 3 extra-base hits combined. https://t.co/EZFRo2LVD8
The Dodgers likely won't get away with averaging three-and-a-half runs throughout the playoffs en route to a World Series title, but L.A. finished first in the league in ERA, runs, run differential and slugging percentage.
If the offense runs cold, the pitching can easily come through, and vice versa. When both are clicking, L.A. is near-invincible. And if that happens, then the Dodgers should coast to the World Series.
The Dodgers await the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals vs. San Diego Padres NL Wild Card Series. Game 3 of that matchup, which is tied at one game apiece, is set for 7:08 p.m. ET on Friday.
Game 1 of the Dodgers' NLDS will occur Tuesday. The series will take place at Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.