LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw‘s Saturday start against the division-rival Arizona Diamondbacks lasted eight batters and less than one inning. By the time he exited, with a 6-0 deficit and only one out recorded in Game 1 of the National League Division Series, most of the fans had yet to settle into their seats at Dodger Stadium.
The Los Angeles Dodgers went into the postseason knowing Kershaw would be limited by the tender shoulder that ailed him down the stretch — but they expected him to be effective.
Instead, he recorded one of the worst starts in postseason history.
It began with D-backs second baseman Ketel Marte lining the second pitch of the game into and out of the glove of rookie center fielder James Outman, a double that should have been ruled an error. Corbin Carroll and Tommy Pham followed with back-to-back singles, Christian Walker added a double and Gabriel Moreno, the D-backs catcher who was hit in the head by a backswing during Arizona’s last game on Wednesday, then blasted a 419-foot three-run homer, leaving a still-arriving crowd in stunned silence.
Three batters later, after a one-out walk and another double, Kershaw’s outing was finished, making way for rookie right-hander Emmet Sheehan.
Saturday marked Kershaw’s 454th career start and the first time he had allowed five consecutive hits to open a game. It was also the first time he failed to complete an inning. Only three other starters had ever allowed six-plus runs while recording one out or fewer in postseason history: Dakota Hudson with the St. Louis Cardinals (Game 4 of the 2019 NL Championship Series), Mike Foltynewicz of the Atlanta Braves (Game 5 of the 2019 NLDS) and Gil Heredia of the Oakland Athletics (Game 5 of the 2000 American League Division Series).
Kershaw had spent the last two months of the regular season pitching through a tender throwing shoulder, overcoming a slower fastball and benefitting from extra rest in between starts while continuing to be effective, mostly in five-inning increments once a week. Despite clearly not being at his best, Kershaw managed a 2.23 ERA in his last eight regular-season starts.
It all caught up to him when it mattered most.