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After Series loss, Kershaw ponders opt-out

October 28, 2018

LOS ANGELES -- Sandy Koufax's last Dodgers start was a World Series loss, so Clayton Kershaw will be in familiar company if he chooses free agency and Sunday night's 5-1 defeat to the Red Sox that eliminated the Dodgers from the World Series doubles as Kershaw's Los Angeles farewell.Kershaw has

LOS ANGELES -- Sandy Koufax's last Dodgers start was a World Series loss, so Clayton Kershaw will be in familiar company if he chooses free agency and Sunday night's 5-1 defeat to the Red Sox that eliminated the Dodgers from the World Series doubles as Kershaw's Los Angeles farewell.
Kershaw has three days to decide whether to exercise a contract opt-out and walk away from the final two years and $65 million of his contract, but it was obviously not the first thing on his mind Sunday night.
:: World Series schedule and results ::
"This was a tough one for us tonight, it really was," said Kershaw. "Myself, personally, you know, it was tough. David Price pitched a great game and I got outpitched and we lost the game. I've got three days now to think about all of that stuff before anything happens. And so it will be an eventful three days for me, and I'll try to figure it out.
"I haven't made the decision yet. We have three days to talk, between us and the Dodgers, see what happens. And then we'll go from there."
Kershaw's future was nearly as prominent a topic in the Dodgers' somber postgame clubhouse as a second World Series defeat in as many seasons.
"Clayton is the Dodgers," said Rich Hill. "He's the heart and soul of this organization. You look at a guy like that, put it on the line for so many years and had so much success here, I just hope they do the right things."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, who also has a contract issue to be resolved, addressed Kershaw's importance to the franchise in his postgame message to the club.
"I did mention Clayton by name as far as his legacy with the Dodgers, and what he's done for the organization, the fan base," said Roberts. "Wearing this jersey, Clayton exemplifies what it is to be a Dodger and to be a man of character.
"So whatever decision he makes, that is with him and his family. But for me to be on his team for three years I've learned a tremendous amount from him, and I'll take that going forward. This one hurts for him. This one hurts for all of us. But the effort, the preparation, all the hard work that he has put in and his teammates, for me is unparalleled."

But Kershaw still doesn't have a ring.
"There's only one team that can win and we know that, but it just hurts worse when you make it all the way and get second place," he said. "So having done that two years in a row now, it doesn't make it any easier. I'm proud to be part of a group that did get to go to the World Series two years in a row. Proud of that. Proud of what we were able to accomplish this year as a team. And anytime you lose the last game when you're in the playoffs, it's no fun. So, yeah, just some disappointment right now for sure."

Kershaw allowed home runs to Steve Pearce, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez in Game 5, but he also lacked needed support after David Freese's homer leading off the bottom of the first inning. Kershaw was charged with four runs in seven innings.
"When he did make a mistake," said Roberts, "they hit it out of the ballpark."

The Dodgers already were trailing on a two-run homer in the first inning by eventual series MVP Pearce, although Kershaw was more critical of the preceding single by Andrew Benintendi on an 0-2 pitch.
"He didn't hit it that hard, but he shouldn't be able to make contact on a 0-2 slider," said Kershaw. "I left that one up. That's what cost you."
Kershaw complained after Game 1 that his slider -- which had become his primary pitch this year after a drop in fastball velocity -- wasn't sharp. He didn't seem to trust it in this game, throwing it a season-low 27 percent of the time according to Statcast™. A fastball in the low-90s to a team with hitters like Boston, well, Kershaw summed up that equation.
"Not a lot of margin for error," he said. "I made a few mistakes tonight and sometimes you just wish they'd find a gap or find a single or something like that. And they went over the fence tonight. That's the story of the game."

Kershaw -- a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner, seven-time All-Star and the 2014 NL MVP Award winner -- has an un-Kershaw 9-10 record and a 4.32 ERA in the postseason (1-2, 5.40 in the World Series). That included his Game 1 loss in Boston last week, when he allowed five runs in four-plus innings. In Game 5 he struck out five without a walk.
The Dodgers have lost four of the six postseason starts that Kershaw has made with his team facing elimination.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.