Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw’s playoff struggles continued in the NLDS against the Nats. What is going on and can anything be done to reverse it?
He led the Major Leagues in ERA each year from 2011-2014, has finished with an ERA under 2.00 three times and struck out 301 batters in 2015. He also threw a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies on June 18, 2014, in which an error allowed the only baserunner to reach on that night. Simply put, Kershaw has been as dominant as anybody over the last decade.
However, we need to talk about last night.
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Clayton Kershaw entered Wednesday’s Game 5 against the Washington Nationals with two out and two on in the top of the 7th inning with the Dodgers holding a 3-1 advantage. He would get Adam Eaton striking out to end that frame, and while the Dodgers would go down in order against Washington’s Tanner Rainey, they seemed to be in a great position with just one more good inning needed from Kershaw to get to the final frame for their closer Kenley Jansen. The Nationals, though, would have something to say about that.
After a first-pitch ball to Anthony Rendon, the MVP candidate sent Kershaw’s next offering into the left-field seats, making the deficit just one run at 3-2.
Then, phenom Juan Soto made his way to the plate against another left-handed pitcher and did just what he has done all postseason and crushed Kershaw’s first pitch into the LA night for yet another home run, this one to tie the game. In a matter of just a few moments, the Los Angeles Dodgers momentum had completely vanished. Howie Kendrick followed with a grand slam in the 10th inning off Joe Kelly, and the Dodgers season ended on the most down of notes.
Now, Kershaw’s playoff struggles are certainly not unnoticed over the years, becoming the fodder of many a joke online. However, they are particularly startling when simply looking at them compared to his regular-season success.
Chief among these comparisons is the fact that his 2.44 ERA through 12 career seasons balloons to 4.43 in the playoffs, 4.61 in six NLCS appearances and 5.40 in his World Series games. It is postseason elimination games, though, where his struggles hit a peak, with his numbers in 11 such games at a 5.77 ERA.
So, what could be the reason for Kershaw’s struggles this time of the year, and how will they potentially affect his legacy?
First off, in the eyes of his accolades, nothing he does or struggles to do in the postseason will take away his three Cy Young awards, pitching Triple Crown, or eight All-Star nods. Nor, at the same time, will they affect his status as a consensus future resident in Cooperstown once his playing days are over.
However, they may affect the chances of teams that he is on of achieving the ultimate goal of a World Series championship. That may seem harsh, but please allow for an explanation.
No one may know what causes these struggles, but the fact that they have been nearly always present during Kershaw’s career suggest that it may very well be something mental that he has simply been unable to get over, and fans all around baseball can only hope that he can get over whatever it is that hangs over him because when he is on, Clayton Kershaw is one of the best there is.