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.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.