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

Clayton Kershaw
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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.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

Minnesota Twis v Kansas City Royals
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.