Clayton Kershaw struck out 12 batters over seven innings tonight at Turner Field as the Dodgers topped the Braves 6-1 in Game 1 of the NLDS.
Kershaw labored early on, but he eventually showed why he’s a virtual lock to win the National League Cy Young Award, striking out nine out of the final 11 batters he faced. The southpaw gave up one run and three hits on the night, with the only run scoring on an RBI single by Chris Johnson in the bottom of the fourth inning. This was the first postseason victory of Kershaw’s career. He previously appeared in five postseason games (including two starts) in 2008 and 2009.
Kershaw’s 12 strikeouts tonight were the most by a Dodgers pitcher in the postseason since Sandy Koufax struck out 15 in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series. That’s some pretty good company. They were also the most in an MLB postseason game since Cliff Lee struck out 13 in Game 3 of the 2010 ALCS.
Kris Medlen came into the postseason on a roll, allowing just four earned runs combined over his final six regular season starts, but it didn’t translate tonight. He gave up five runs on nine hits and a walk over four innings before exiting. The Dodgers had contributions from all over the lineup, as Adrian Gonzalez launched a two-run homer while Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Skip Schumaker, and A.J. Ellis also drove in runs.
Things won’t get any easier for the Braves tomorrow, as they’ll have to dust themselves off and face Zack Greinke. After using five relievers tonight, they’ll be looking for a big outing out of Mike Minor.
The Marlins are intent on adding one of the three best relievers available on the free agent market, Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports. Those three, of course, are Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Mark Melancon.
As Ashley noted earlier, Melancon is reportedly fielding multiple four-year offers in excess of $60 million. The price tags for Chapman and Jansen are likely to match or exceed that. The Marlins haven’t typically been eager to whip out the checkbook for free agents but with the bullpen being the name of the game in baseball these days, GM Michael Hill may feel the need to match his rivals.
The Nationals, Giants, Yankees, Cubs, and Dodgers are the teams most often linked to the “big-three” group of relievers, so it won’t be easy for the Marlins.
A.J. Ramos handled the closer’s role for the Marlins this past season and did an admirable job, saving 40 games with a 2.81 ERA and a 73/35 K/BB ratio in 64 innings. There’s no doubt, though, that Chapman, Jansen, or Melancon would represent a significant upgrade in the ninth inning.
C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports that Reds manager Bryan Price is likely going to use a trio of pitchers in the closer’s role: Raisel Iglesias, Tony Cingrani, and Michael Lorenzen. At RedsFest on Saturday, Price said:
I’d say right now that we have a series of guys that I’m comfortable with in the ninth inning and that would include (Raisel) Iglesias, (Tony) Cingrani and (Michael Lorenzen). Should we stay with this format – which I intend to do – all three of those guys and maybe more could have opportunities in save situations. At this point in time, there’s no defined closer. There are multiple options and I’d like to stick with the philosophy that we’re going to have our multi-inning guys, so we’re going to need multi-closers.
This seems to be part of the new bullpen zeitgeist in which managers are shying away from strictly-defined roles for their relievers. Indians manager Terry Francona’s postseason success using Andrew Miller likely had some degree of influence on Price’s willingness to go with a three-headed giant.
Iglesias started the 2016 season in the Reds’ rotation but missed two months with an injury, then moved to the bullpen in late June. Price put him in the closer’s role down the stretch in September. The right-hander overall finished the season with a 2.53 ERA and an 83/26 K/BB ratio in 78 1/3 innings.
Cingrani battled control issues in his 63 innings of work this past season, finishing with a 4.14 ERA and a 49/37 K/BB ratio. He’s left-handed, though, and gives Price some matchup flexibility in the late innings.
Lorenzen impressed in his first full season as a reliever, ending the year with a 2.88 ERA and a 48/13 K/BB ratio in 50 innings. The right-hander uses a fastball that sits around 96 MPH on average along with a cutter and slider.