Clayton Kershaw strikes out 12 batters as Dodgers top Braves in Game 1 of NLDS

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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.

David Price’s season debut could be pushed back to May

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David Price showed “strength improvements” in his elbow on Saturday, but Red Sox’ manager John Farrell still doesn’t think the left-hander will be ready to throw by the start of the season — or for a few weeks afterward. According to ESPN’s Scott Lauber, the 31-year-old might not be ready to debut until May at the earliest.

Price hasn’t thrown off of a mound this spring after experiencing soreness in his left elbow on March 1. Surgery doesn’t appear to be necessary, but the Red Sox are playing it extra safe with their No. 3 starter in hopes that rest and rehabilitation will return him to full health sometime during the 2017 season. For now, Price has been restricted to short games of catch until he’s cleared to resume a more rigorous throwing program. Via MLB.com’s Ian Browne:

[There were] strength improvements to the point of putting the ball back in his hand a little more consistently,” said manager John Farrell. “Today’s the first step for that. A short game of catch. That’s what he’s going through. Not off a mound but just to get the arm moving with a ball in flight, and he will continue in this phase for a period of time. There’s no set distance and volume yet to the throws.

The lefty is coming off of a lackluster 2016 season, during which he delivered a 3.99 ERA, 2.0 BB/9 and 8.9 SO/9 over 230 innings for the Red Sox.

Yadier Molina will not enter contract negotiations during the 2017 season

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Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports that Cardinals’ catcher Yadier Molina is still open to extension talks during the last week of spring training. Once Opening Day rolls around, however, Molina has preemptively nixed any contract negotiations until the end of the 2017 season, when he’s scheduled to hit free agency.

Molina wants to stay with the Cardinals, or so he’s telling reporters, but he’s also “not afraid” to test the free agent market this fall should a deal fail to materialize. Via Goold:

I would love to stay, but at the same time I’m not afraid to go to free agency. I’ve still got many years in the tank. Believe me. I feel great. I feel like a 20-year-old kid. I’m not afraid to go to free agency.

The 34-year-old backstop is entering his final year under contract, though Goold points out that he has a $15 million option for 2018 that he can choose to decline in the event that it’s exercised by the team. He’s reportedly searching for a figure closer to those made by other top catchers like Buster Posey and Russell Martin.

The 2017 season will mark Molina’s 14th year in the Cardinals’ organization, building on a career that has spanned seven All-Star campaigns, nine postseason runs and two World Series championships in St. Louis. He batted .307/.360/.427 with eight home runs and a .787 OPS for the club in 2016.