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.

Sox, Astros look to take a lead, Brewers look to take command in tonight’s LCS action

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The Red Sox and Astros felt each other out for Games 1 and 2 and now things shift to Houston for Game 3. Each team faces a challenge of sorts here, with the Astros facing a right-handed starter for the first time in the series — they have hit better against lefties on the season — and the Red Sox entering the game with some questions about their bullpen, particularly closer Craig Kimbrel. Also of note: each team has a big bit — Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez — which has been cold thus far. Altuve has gone 1-for-8 in the first two games and Martinez is 0-for-7. Altuve is nursing a sore right knee and may be the DH this afternoon. Martinez, of course, will DH for Boston. It’ll be interesting to see if either one of ’em gets of the schneid.

In Los Angeles, the Brewers would take a commanding 3-1 lead with a victory tonight. As noted below, things are set up nicely for them from a pitching perspective, having basically everyone available in what will be, essentially, a bullpen game. The Dodgers have a traditional starter on the mound in Rich Hill, but since Walker Buehler went seven innings and Dave Roberts did not have to use his top relief arms, he’ll likely be calling down to the pen earlier than usual as well. Indeed, expect him to pull out all the stops he can to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole in this best-of-seven series.

Your viewing guide:

ALCS Game 3

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 5:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dallas Keuchel
Breakdown:

Eovaldi is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks in his Game 3 start against the Yankees in the ALDS. Earlier this year he faced the Astros when he was still with the Rays — as you probably heard by now, that didn’t go too well — but he’s been solid as a rock for Boston since the beginning of September, not allowing more than two runs in any start and blanking the opposition three times. Keuchel is working on seven days of rest since giving up two runs over five innings in his Game 3 of the ALDS. Sometimes people say guys with sinking stuff like his do worse with more rest but I feel like every time I’ve heard that for the past decade, a guy like him has either been just fine on extra rest or has gotten shelled on the allegedly good short rest they get. It’s mostly noise. So much small sample stuff this time of year is noise. Including the fact that Keuchel is 0-1 with a 9.15 ERA over four appearances against the Sox in his career. People say that stuff to have something to say. Like I just did.

NLCS Game 4

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 9:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez vs. Rich Hill
Breakdown:

Gio Gonzalez will start the game, but as was the case in Game 1 when Gonzalez pitched just two innings, look for him to be an opener here once again. In Game 1 Craig Counsell used seven pitchers, with Brandon Woodruff going two innings and Josh Hader going three. Hader pitched yesterday but it was only two-thirds of an inning in which he only threw eight pitches, so expect to see him once again. The Dodgers, blanked yesterday, will need to show that they can do something against the Brewers’ best or this thing isn’t going back to Milwaukee for a Game 6 or 7. As for their starter, Rich Hill hasn’t pitched in eight days, last going four and a third against the Braves in the NLDS, allowing two runs. He’ll be pitching to Austin Barnes after Yasmani Grandal’s boo-inspiring performance in the postseason thus far sends him to the pine.