The exorcism of Clayton Kershaw

The postseason struggles of pitcher Clayton Kershaw have been well documented. A 5-7 overall record in 11 series over seven seasons isn’t great for a former MVP.

A 6.30 ERA in two appearances against the St. Louis Cardinals in the 2013 NLCS, 7.82 ERA in two starts against the Cardinals in the 2014 NLDS and a whopping 9.45 ERA in two appearances against the Philadelphia Phillies in the 2009 NLCS have been among his worst series to date. Of course, you can’t forget the five runs allowed in five innings in the deciding Game 6 against the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 NLCS. Thursday night’s Game 5 is Kershaw’s chance to redeem himself.

In Game 1 of the current NLCS, Kershaw faced 20 batters over five innings and allowed just two runs in a no decision. It just might be the breakthrough Kershaw needs to get over the postseason yips and shutdown the Cubs.

A dominant regular season pitcher, Kershaw has never lost more than nine games in a season since his first All-Star season in 2011. Of those seven seasons, he’s posted a league-best ERA five times and won 21 games twice. In other words, when Kershaw takes the mound between the months of April and September, he’s been nearly a lock for a Dodger win.

The postseason has been a completely different story for the three-time Cy Young Award winner. After his arrival as an elite hurler in 2011, Kershaw’s next postseason appearance came in the 2013 NLDS against the Atlanta Braves, where he allowed just one run and won. However, he then went seven postseason outings before he logged his next win against the New York Mets in the 2015 NLDS.

With a 3-1 lead heading into Game 5 on Thursday night, Kershaw has a chance to exorcise demons from postseasons past. The Cubs have scored just seven runs on six home runs over the course of the first four games of the series, Kershaw allowed two of those runs on one dinger in Game 1.

There’s no telling which version of Kershaw we’ll see in Game 5, but if the power of the World Series compels him, the Dodgers will be headed that way for the first time since they won it all in 1988.

Photo by Brigham Berthold

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