Here’s how well tonight went: Don Mattingly got a severe case of the stupids in the fifth, bunting Juan Uribe with two men on, and it doesn’t even register as a complaint because everything else went so well.
Normally, that sort of thing would matter. Tonight? Not at all, not when the first game of the NLDS was everything we hoped it would be and more — and that’s saying a lot considering how absolutely dominant Kris Medlen looked in striking out the side in the first.
But Medlen’s success didn’t last all that long, because he gave up three hits in the second, including A.J. Ellis‘ first double of the night — and a Skip Schumaker sac fly that pushed across the first run — two more in the third, coming when Adrian Gonzalez crushed a ball out of the park to dead center field, and another in the fourth when Mark Ellis singled home A.J., who had reached on his second double. After looking so good in that first inning, Medlen allowed 10 baserunners over just four innings, and every Dodger starter other than Schumaker ended up with a hit — and he walked and had that run-scoring sac fly.
As if Medlen struggling wasn’t bad enough, the Braves were busy shooting themselves in the foot, by which I mean, “having their outfield do all the dumb things everyone was afraid Yasiel Puig would do.” On Schumaker’s sacrifice fly in the second, center fielder Jason Heyward threw home attempting to get Puig even though it was clear he had no shot, allowing Juan Uribe to advance to second; Uribe then scored on Ellis’ double. Evan Gattis hilariously flopped on the play, as I showed via GIF earlier, and also got himself doubled off first on a ludicrously poor base-running decision.
I tell you, those Braves just need to learn to play the game the right way.
That meant that the Braves were down 5-0 to Clayton Kershaw, and that’s just never, ever a good place to be in, especially not on a night like tonight. The funny thing is, Kershaw appeared to be struggling with his curve for the first few innings, and he was still making the Braves look silly. How many times have we said that “he wasn’t at his best” this year, then still had him throw seven or eight shutout or one-run innings? If that’s not true greatness, I don’t know what is.
Kershaw struck out 12 Braves, the third-most whiffs in Dodger playoff history, including Heyward, Andrelton Simmons, Elliot Johnson, and Freddie Freeman twice apiece, and it’s difficult to accurately give him the accolades he deserves here. At one point he struck out six in a row; he finished his night off by whiffing nine of eleven. He didn’t have his best stuff, and he did that. It’s unbelievable.
Really, I’m not sure anything sums up the night better than this Braves fan reaction to one of Kershaw’s ridiculous pitches, helpfully supplied by DCLAguy:
Yeah, that’s right — we bask in your sadness. And the Dodgers are up 1-0, with Zack Greinke on the mound tomorrow.