Debate his results all you’d like, but there’s no debating this: Clayton Kershaw is Major League Baseball’s all-time postseason strikeout king.
Kershaw caught Joey Wendle looking in the second inning then got Mike Zunino (looking) and Brandon Lowe (swinging) in the third. The record-tying strikeout came on a whiff of Willy Adames in the fourth, and Kevin Kiermaier went down swinging in the fifth to put Kershaw alone atop the leaderboard.
Zunino also fanned in the fifth for Kershaw's final strikeout of the night, before manager Dave Roberts turned to the bullpen in the sixth with the Dodgers holding a two-run lead.
Los Angeles' longtime ace allowed two runs over 5 2/3 innings for the win, holding the Rays to five hits and two walks.
“It just means that I've been on great teams that have gotten to go to the postseason a lot and I got to get a lot of starts in the postseason,” Kershaw said. “Obviously, a very special opportunity. It's just a special thing to get to be a part of a team like this and get to be a part of some of those names.”
That was more than he had to say in the run-up to Sunday’s start about individual accolades in October, when Kershaw said, “Just win. In the postseason, it’s just about winning.”
Verlander, who last pitched in the playoffs in last year’s World Series, set the mark over 31 games, 30 starts, and 187 2/3 innings over 19 postseason series. He missed the Astros’ playoff run this year because of an elbow injury.
Kershaw’s postseason résumé spans 37 appearances, 30 starts, 189 innings and 20 series. He has been striking out hitters at a rapid rate this year, beginning with 13 strikeouts in a victory over the Brewers in the National League Wild Card Series.
Kershaw then pitched against the Padres in the NL Division Series and the Braves in the NL Championship Series before logging eight strikeouts against the Rays in Game 1 of the World Series to pass Hall of Famer John Smoltz for second all time in postseason whiffs.
Smoltz was the record holder prior to Verlander with 199 strikeouts in the postseason.