No pitcher in the history of baseball has won three Cy Young awards before he's turned 27 years old. Clayton Kershaw will become the first when he's handed the Cy in a few weeks.
No pitcher in the history of the MLB playoffs had given up at least seven earned runs in back-to-back outings. That was at least until last night when Clayton Kershaw also became the first to accomplish such a shoddy feat.
Not a good night
The best pitcher in baseball was shelled on Friday night, at home in front of his own fans in a 10-9 loss in game one of the NLDS. The worst part may have been the opponent, though. Kershaw's last playoff outing came against the St. Louis Cardinals in game six of last year's NLCS. The Cardinals beat the Dodgers at home and eventually went on to play in the World Series. And the Red Birds from St. Louis did the exact same thing to Kershaw in their first game against him this year.
After giving up a solo home run to Randall Grichuk in the first, Kershaw settled down. With a 6-1 lead, the lefty began mowing down Cardinals - retiring 16 straight batters until the sixth inning. Then Matt Carpenter came up and blasted a solo home run to right - still a 6-2 LA lead.
But then the seventh inning came and Kershaw ran into some trouble before facing his nemesis once again. St. Louis loaded the bases and brought in two runs to send Carpenter to the plate for another at-bat against Kershaw, who had thrown over 100 pitches on the night. And on the eighth pitch of the battle, Carpenter sent a line drive off the ball in right field to give his team an 8-7 lead with three RBI's.
The at-bat represented some of the subtle, yet fine, differences there are between regular season play and playoff baseball.
Carpenter, a pesky leadoff hitter who makes his living on putting the ball in play and spraying line drives all over the diamond, refused to give into Kershaw. The Cardinals' infielder fouled off four Kershaw offerings before eventually working a mistake from Kershaw - a fastball right over the middle of the plate.
It was the type of battle that doesn't happen in the regular season, where strikeouts are now accepted and fighting off pitch after pitch to eventually earn a good one to hit isn't as crucial as it is in a game where all 27 outs mean an awful lot. But Kershaw was unable to realize that he wasn't going to strike Carpenter out. And instead of just pitching to generate weak contact, he persisted. And he ended up paying for it.
It's just one loss for LA, who will counter with Zack Greinke Saturday at Dodger Stadium for game two.
But the bigger question might be how their ace responds, if he gets the chance to pitch again in the series. With the possibility of Kershaw getting the ball again as early as game four, he will have little time to sulk. And you better believe he will have more motivation than any other time to shut down the Cardinals, who have proven to be his only kryptonite.