Clayton Kershaw battles in Dodgers’ first NLDS win

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It wasn’t the worst Clayton Kershaw and Max Scherzer had looked in the playoffs, but it wasn’t good, either.

Scherzer fell victim to rookie shortstop Corey Seager, who rode a 109 m.p.h. home run to center field in his first at-bat of the game. Chase Utley and Justin Turner piled on in the third inning with an RBI single and a two-run homer, giving the Dodgers just the edge they needed to clinch Game 1 of the NLDS.

Kershaw, meanwhile, got off to a more promising start after striking out the side in the first inning, though he labored through 17 pitches to do so. His command was on point, inducing swings and misses in the dirt with his offspeed stuff and swings and misses in the middle of the zone with his heater, but Bryce Harper‘s eight-pitch at-bat left him winded heading into the second inning.

After a 23-pitch second inning, during which Scherzer popped out with the bases loaded, Kershaw ran into trouble when Harper and Jayson Werth executed a double steal during Anthony Rendon‘s at-bat in the third. Rendon lashed a single into left field and drove in the Nats’ first runs of the game, bolstered by a bonus sac fly in the fourth inning. By then, Kershaw was nearly out of the game — at 101 pitches, he exited in the fifth when Dave Roberts handed the game over to the bullpen.

Scherzer lasted another inning before leaving with four runs, two homers, and five strikeouts on the night. While Sammy Solis and Mark Melancon pitched two scoreless innings for the Nationals, aided by Kenley Jansen‘s bases-loaded flub in the ninth, they were matched with equal dominance by a four-pitcher cadre of Los Angeles relievers. Jansen returned in the bottom of the ninth to log the final three outs of the game, sending the Nats home on a seven-pitch strikeout to Jayson Werth.

Thanks in small part to Kershaw’s efforts and in larger part to Corey Seager, Justin Turner, and an outstanding effort by Los Angeles’ bullpen, the Dodgers sit 1-0 over the Nationals in the NLDS. Their next match-up, a showdown between left-hander and near-perfect gamer Rich Hill and right-hander Tanner Roark, will kick off at 4 PM EDT on Saturday.