Clayton Kershaw
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Clayton Kershaw shines as Dodgers defeat Braves for 2-0 lead in NLDS

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The Dodgers are verging on a postseason sweep following a phenomenal performance from Clayton Kershaw on Friday. Backed by a handful of key hits from Manny Machado and Yasmani Grandal, the club shut out the Braves 3-0 and now hold a 2-0 lead in the NLDS.

Kershaw stunned the Braves from start to finish. He eliminated any pressure or possibility of a no-hitter after surrendering a leadoff single to Ronald Acuña Jr. in the first inning, but became increasingly stingier as the game wore on. Not a single member of Atlanta’s lineup reached base again until the fifth, when Ender Inciarte worked a 1-2 count and drove a two-out single out to second base for a rare hit, then was promptly left stranded as Charlie Culberson grounded into an inning-ending force out.

At the top of the sixth inning, Kershaw allowed another baserunner after a wayward slider bounced off of Lane Adams‘ foot. Any thought the Braves may have had of capitalizing on that mishap was fleeting, however: Acuña grounded out and Johan Camargo hit into a double play to give Kershaw his sixth straight scoreless inning of the night.

While Kershaw’s postseason woes have been well-documented, everything appeared to run like clockwork on the field and at the plate. Manny Machado worked a 3-0 count against Aníbal Sánchez in the first inning, then lashed a two-run blast out to left field for an early 2-0 lead. In the fifth, Yasmani Grandal took Sánchez deep a second time with a 419-foot solo shot that boosted the Dodgers to a three-run advantage.

Past the fifth, however, the Dodgers found it difficult to scrape together additional runs off of Atlanta’s bullpen. Max Fried, Touki Toussaint, and Arodys Vizcaíno combined for three hitless innings, permitting just two walks and striking out four of 11 batters faced. Kershaw, meanwhile, kept dealing — through the eighth, he had logged just 85 pitches with two hits and three strikeouts — and remained on track to set down the first postseason “Maddux” since 1985.

Instead, as might have been expected during the Dodgers’ second game of the playoffs, Dave Roberts relieved the lefty at the top of the ninth and handed the ball to closer Kenley Jansen. Jansen retired Lucas Duda with a groundout to first, then allowed Acuña a final single into right field. Camargo popped out to first base on an 0-2 count while Acuña made his way around the horn (first advancing to second on defensive indifference, then third), but the Braves fell just short of a rally after Jansen recovered to strike out Freddie Freeman and clinch the shutout.

With the win, the Dodgers are now the proud owners of back-to-back postseason shutouts — the first to start a series with two shutouts in 97 years — and a 2-0 lead in the NLDS. While starters for both sides have yet to be announced, Game 3 is scheduled to commence on Sunday at 8:07 PM EDT.

Twins reach historic home run total during 11-4 rout of White Sox

Max Kepler
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The Twins trampled the White Sox on Friday night, cruising to a cool 11-4 lead over their division rivals and collecting their sixth double-digit win of 2019. Even more impressive, they picked up their 99th, 100th, and 101st home runs, a feat that’s rarely been matched in a team’s first 50 games of any given season.

The first homer of the night was delivered by Eddie Rosario in the third inning. Working against a single-run deficit, Rosario lifted an 0-1 fastball from the White Sox’ Reynaldo López, planting it firmly in the left field stands and evening the score, 4-4. Two batters later, Rosario’s solo home run got a sequel: a 398-footer from Miguel Sanó, this one postmarked for the upper deck in left.

In the fourth, now leading 5-4, the Twins saw a third and final homer from the bat of Max Kepler, whose center-field blast traveled a projected 397 feet to give the club a two-run advantage. Per MLB Stats, the Twins’ record — 101 homers in 50 games — stands second only to that of the 1999 Mariners, who managed to club 102 home runs before their 51st game of the season.

While the record has undoubtedly been a team effort, Rosario leads the pack with a team-best 15 homers so far this year, closely followed by C.J. Cron (13), Max Kepler (11), and Jonathan Schoop (10). Sanó, whose solo shot marked the team’s 100th home run of 2019, has just five, though there’s little doubt he’ll reach double digits before the end of the season.

According to MLB.com’s Do-Hyoung Park, the Twins also made it to an even 300 runs scored in 2019, for a satisfying average of six runs per game and a new franchise record (previous high mark: 273 runs scored in 1992). With the win, they improved to 34-16 on the year and continue to hold a comfortable eight-game lead in the AL Central.