Kershaw cements legacy, kills narratives in historic WS debut
Clayton Kershaw came into Tuesday's start in Game 1 of the World Series carrying a bit of a reputation in some corners for wilting under the bright lights of October. Much of this came from two specific starts against the Cardinals in the 2013 and '14 playoffs, respectively, when he allowed a combined 15 runs on 18 hits - but no matter. For all of his true brilliance on the mound, Kershaw just couldn't seem to silence the detractors come playoff time.
That was until the Kershaw-era Los Angeles Dodgers finally reached the World Series. And when he finally did get his chance on the big stage, the best pitcher of this generation turned his game up to 11.
Kershaw didn't just bury the narratives surrounding his postseason performances on Tuesday night - he set that narrative ablaze with a flamethrower, banishing it to baseball purgatory forever while putting the Dodgers just three wins away from their first title in 29 years.
He made the 2017 Houston Astros - the best offense in baseball this year, and a team that struck out less than any other - look less like American League champions and more the 1899 Cleveland Spiders.
Kershaw struck out 11 Astros hitters on just three hits, with Alex Bregman's solo shot his lone blemish. The 29-year-old became only the 22nd pitcher to punch out at least 11 in a World Series game; had he finished out the contest, he surely would have at least made a run at tying Bob Gibson's World Series record 17 Ks from 1968.
Here's the complete list of 11-plus-strikeout performances in the World Series prior to Tuesday night:
Did Kershaw author the finest playoff performance in Dodgers history? Probably not. Some guy named Sandy Koufax had himself a series in 1965, and his epic 10-strikeout, three-hit shutout in Game 7 against the Twins - a performance that came three days after he'd shut out the same team on four hits in Game 5 of that series - will stand the test of time in Dodger lore. Kershaw's Tuesday start is up there, but he would pretty much have to throw a no-hitter to top what Koufax did.
Yet there was Kershaw in Game 1, working on the same Dodger Stadium mound that Koufax owned for much of the 1960s, echoing No. 32 with a Fall Classic performance for the ages.
He set or tied multiple records in Game 1, including tying a 68-year-old mark for the most strikeouts in a World Series game without issuing a walk. Now he shares that mark with another Dodger pitching legend in Don Newcombe, who did it in 1949, back when the club still called Brooklyn home. He joined Gibson as the only pitchers to have struck out at least 45 percent of hitters faced in a single World Series game.
Oh, and about that narrative? Kershaw now owns a 2.96 ERA in these 2017 playoffs. His ERA is 3.39 over his last 11 postseason appearances.
Put that one in your playoff pipes.