LOS ANGELES – The Dodgers are favored over the Cubs in the NLCS and Clayton Kershaw is a big reason why.
Perhaps reason No. 1.
It’s worth noting, though, that the 29-year-old generally regarded as the best left-hander in baseball owns a far from impeccable postseason record.
In fact, the Cubs are one reason why. When they defeated the Dodgers 4 games to 2 in the 2016 NLCS, Kershaw was dominant with seven scoreless innings of two-hit ball in Game 2 but when everyone assumed he would force a Game 7, he gave up five runs in five innings in the Cubs’ Game 6 clincher six days later. He will take a 5-7 postseason record and 4.63 ERA into Game 1 of the NLCS Saturday at Dodger Stadium.
“Yeah, people talk about all the postseason failures that I’ve had a lot, and I understand that,’’ Kershaw said Friday at Dodger Stadium. “I don’t really look at it like that, though, which is I guess a good thing for me. I look at the times I’ve had success and I try to marinate on those.’’
In addition to his substantial talent, Kershaw also has this much going for him Saturday: Instead of starting on short rest, which he has done four times in his postseason career, he goes in fresh with seven days off since he gave up four runs over 6 1/3 innings against the Diamondbacks on Game 1 victory of the NLDS.
In fact, the entire Dodgers team will be much fresher than the Cubs, who will face the three-time Cy Young winner two days after a taxing Game 5 victory in Washington.
“So I’m sure they’re going to be feeling it maybe [Friday] and maybe even [Saturday] a little bit,’’ Kershsaw said. “But adrenaline can carry over almost through that off-day at times.
“It was a weird situation for them [Friday] night. I’ve never been a part of that. We’ve always had an off-day and never had to travel cross-country like that. So I don’t really know exactly how it will affect them, but we can’t think about that. We’re well rested and ready to go.’’
Rest or not, this will bear watching from Kershaw: When he gave up two runs in the seventh innings against the Diamondbacks with a 7-2 lead a week ago, it underscored his seventh-inning bugaboo. He owns an alarming postseason ERA of 25.50 in the seventh inning.
That’s something he might want to get past, or something manager Dave Roberts should be conscious of because “we want to go to the World Series,’’ Kershaw said.
“We didn’t get to do that last year, and the Cubs were the reason why. We know that.
“They were the best team last year, and until somebody beats them, they’re the best team. So we’ve got to go get them.’’
It all starts with the starting pitcher in Game 1.
Clayton Kershaw, your table is ready.