The Los Angeles Dodgers beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday night to take a 1-0 series lead. The story of this game was Clayton Kershaw carving up Atlanta's lineup, getting into a vicious groove his third time through the order.
Kershaw was never really in trouble all night, as the Braves totaled just five hits over the course of the game, with none going for extra bases. The Braves got Andrelton Simmons to second base with none out in the third, and couldn't bring him home. The club managed to scrape one run across in the fourth after an RBI single from Chris Johnson, but Simmons struck out with men on the corners to end the inning. After striking out Simmons, Kershaw proceeded to strike out eight of the next ten hitters he faced, with a bouncer to short by Evan Gattis and a walk to Brian McCann.being the outliers. For the game, Kershaw struck out a dozen while walking three, allowing one run on three hits in his seven innings of work.
Meanwhile, the highlight for Kris Medlen of the Braves came when he struck out the side in the first – it was all downhill from there. Medlen allowed back to back singles to Yasiel Puig and Juan Uribe in the second. Puig scored on a sac fly by Skip Schumaker, and Uribe came in on a double by AJ Ellis that sailed under the glove of a diving Gattis in left. In the third, Elliot Johnson mishandled a grounder by Carl Crawford, and Adrian Gonzalez brought him home with a two-run homer to center field three batters later. With Kershaw dealing like he was, four runs was more than enough, but that didn't stop the Dodgers from tacking one two more runs, one in the fourth and one in the sixth.
Braves fans might not like to hear this phrase, but you need to just tip your cap to Kershaw tonight. Once he started laying waste to the Braves lineup the third time through with a four-run lead, you knew this one was over. Kershaw got 20 whiffs on his 124 pitches to go along with five ground ball outs. Atlanta had three air outs all night – and two came in the second inning. The Braves gave him more than enough help with sloppy play, including Johnson's booting of the ground ball, Gattis' whiffed catch, Gattis getting doubled off of first by Puig in the second inning, and Jason Heyward's numerous off-target throws home that allowed a couple of runners to pick up extra bases.
Really, the only thing that went well for the Braves on Thursday night was the performance of their bullpen, which allowed one run on two hits (both given up by Jordan Walden) in five innings. With a lead, that could have been the difference. Instead, it was merely their pen keeping the game from turning into a bloodbath.
Game 2 of the series will be Friday night at 6:07 PM on TBS. Zack Greinke takes the hill for the Dodgers, and the Braves counter with Mike Minor.