Kershaw locks up LA's 1st-round bye with 10-K gem

Dodgers also clinch home-field advantage in NLDS with 102nd win

September 20th, 2022

LOS ANGELES – After running out of gas last postseason, the Dodgers came into Spring Training this year with a set of goals: Winning a World Series, of course, but also taking back the NL West and securing as many home games as possible in October. 

The Dodgers achieved one of their goals last week, winning their ninth NL West crown in 10 seasons. On Monday, the Dodgers checked off another box, securing a bye in the Wild Card Series and home-field advantage in the NL Division Series following a 5-2 win over the D-backs at Dodger Stadium.

By securing a first-round bye, the Dodgers will have the advantage of being rested, while their opponent will have to go through a three-game series in order to advance. It’s the first postseason under the new format.

“I think people can’t appreciate, No. 1, obviously playing more games at home, but also the travel,” said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. “When you’re talking about the postseason, there are time changes. So to be able to sleep in your own bed, be in your surroundings and have guys come to you, it’s certainly more ideal and advantageous. But you still have to go out there and play.”

Joey Gallo and Chris Taylor, who have struggled recently, gave the Dodgers all the offense on Monday. Gallo opened the scoring with a 437-foot moonshot off right-hander Merrill Kelly in the second inning. He followed it up with an RBI single in the fourth. Taylor then delivered the knockout punch, hammering a three-run homer off Kelly.

That was more than enough offense for Clayton Kershaw, who delivered another gem for the Dodgers. Kershaw allowed one run on six hits and struck out 10 over six innings of work. In his four starts since coming off the injured list, Kershaw has allowed four earned runs over 24 innings, striking out 29.

“I feel great. Physically, I feel great and I’m in a good spot,” Kershaw said. “Overall, right now I feel good with it and I have a couple more until October so that’s good.”

Kershaw was dominant from the start, retiring six of the first eight batters he faced on Monday. His most impressive stretch came in the third and fourth innings. The left-hander struck out the side in the third and punched out Jake McCarthy and Christian Walker to begin the fourth. 

Walker fouled off six consecutive pitches off Kershaw, forcing a 12-pitch at-bat. Kershaw then dropped his signature curveball to strike out Walker, who came into Monday’s game with four homers off the left-hander.

Kershaw recorded 19 swings and misses, 11 coming on the slider and three on the curveball. It was the 28th time in his career that the left-hander struck out 10 or more without allowing a free pass. 

“He’s been good all year. For him it’s just a matter of staying healthy,” Taylor said. “Tonight, it was good to see a lot of swings and misses. When he’s good, he really has that slider working and we saw a lot of swing and miss with that tonight.”

Keeping Kershaw healthy and sharp will be a priority for the Dodgers over the next three weeks. After Julio Urías, who has established himself as the ace of the staff, there’s some uncertainty in the starting rotation. Tyler Anderson has been impressive this season, but he could be used in a hybrid role. Andrew Heaney has had his fair share of ups and downs. Tony Gonsolin’s health is a huge question mark and he will likely not return as a fully built-up starter this season. 

A healthy and efficient Kershaw would give the Dodgers some more confidence heading into October. The shuffling of the pitching staff will be the Dodgers’ most important task. Now they’ll have some extra time to figure it out thanks to a first-round bye. 

“This is obviously a very confident team,” Roberts said. “But to have one of your horses go out there and throw the baseball the way he did and for us to respond offensively, it’s what you expect.”