Clayton Kershaw gave up six earned runs in 4.2 innings in Game 5 of the World Series.
Postseason struggles are nothing new for Kershaw, who has a 2.36 career ERA during the regular season and is a three-time Cy Young Award winner.
Now the Dodgers are trailing 3-2 and must win out in order to take the series.
Game 5 of the World Series featured some of the most exhilarating baseball of the season, but for Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, it was the same old story.
With the series tied at two games apiece, the Dodgers had reason to feel good about their chances in the Sunday night showdown — in his career, Kershaw has a 2.38 ERA in eight regular season starts against the Astros, and he led the National League with 18 wins and a 180 ERA+ in 2017.
A good start from the three-time Cy Young Award winner would send the Dodgers back to Los Angeles with a 3-2 advantage, just one game away from their first championship in nearly 30 years. Those plans were thwarted in the fourth inning.
With his team winning 4-0, the normally stingy Kershaw allowed a pair of batters to reach base before giving up an RBI double to Carlos Correa, trimming the deficit to three. After that, a towering home run by first baseman Yuli Gurriel was all it took to erase the Dodgers’ lead, breathing new life into what had been a one-sided game.
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Kershaw induced a pair of fly balls to nab the final two outs. He returned to the mound the following inning but continued to scuffle, finishing his night with six earned runs, two strikeouts, and three walks in just under five innings of work. It was an incredibly disappointing performance considering the situation, but postseason struggles are nothing new for the native Texan.
With the consistent Dodgers making the playoffs in seven of his 10 seasons, Kershaw has seen more postseason action than the vast majority of pitchers, and while there have been shining moments, his overall stats are well below his regular season numbers. In 118 innings, the southpaw has gone 7-7 with a 4.50 ERA, not exactly a picture of dominance.
The numbers look even worse compared with those of his longtime division rival Madison Bumgarner, who’s posted a 2.11 ERA in just over 100 playoff innings. Not everyone can be Bumgarner, of course, but Kershaw has also been outproduced by most of his other elite peers, including Max Scherzer, Dallas Keuchel, Corey Kluber, and Zack Greinke, all of whom had their struggles this postseason.
While he pitched well enough in his first four starts this October, Sunday’s outing rekindled an old criticism of Kershaw’s career: that he doesn’t get it done in the clutch.
Fans took to Twitter to voice their displeasure, ranging from sarcastic to philosophical to downright mean. If the narrative of Kershaw’s futility in the playoffs had died down, it’s back in full force now.
Kershaw’s defenders will cite the small sample size, but it really isn’t that small — at this point, he’s pitched about a half-season’s worth of playoff baseball. If Kershaw were to reach an All-Star break with a 4.50 ERA, you can bet that people would be talking about it.
For what it’s worth, Kershaw’s fourth-inning meltdown was part of the back-and-forth dynamic that helped make Game 5 one of the best in postseason history. The Dodgers and Astros traded blows throughout the rest of the night, with Houston ultimately winning 13-12.
The series will head back to Los Angeles on Tuesday, when Houston will try to clinch it with a win in Game 6.