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October 28, 2020

MLB: Ozuna homers twice, Braves beat Kershaw for 3-1 lead

Marcell Ozuna

By SCHUYLER DIXON

AP Sports Writer

ARLINGTON, Texas — Clayton Kershaw can’t shake his postseason curse, not even in a neutral-site NL Championship Series a few miles from his hometown.

The longtime ace of the Dodgers faltered at the start of the sixth inning against Atlanta, allowing three straight hits before watching the rest of a six-run outburst in the Braves’ 10-2 win in Game 4 on Thursday night.

Kershaw’s franchise-high 12th postseason loss put Los Angeles down 3-1 in the best-of-seven series at the home of the Texas Rangers, on the brink of a second straight defeat in the NLCS after posting the best record in the majors during the pandemic-shortened season.

The three-time NL Cy Young Award winner — pitching two days after he was scratched from a Game 2 start because of back spasms — allowed four runs in five-plus innings, boosting his career playoff ERA to 4.31.

While Kershaw is also the club’s career leader in postseason wins with his 11-12 record, his October resume simply doesn’t match his stellar regular-season numbers: 175-76 with a 2.43 ERA.

In LA’s seven trips to the NLCS over Kershaw’s 13 seasons, the Dallas native is 3-6 with a 4.84 ERA. And now he’s been outpitched by a rookie making his postseason debut: Atlanta’s 22-year-old Game 4 winner, Bryse Wilson.

Kershaw was handed a 1-0 lead on Edwin Ríos’ homer in the third, but gave it up on Marcell Ozuna’s solo shot in the fourth, the first of two for Ozuna.

In the sixth, Ronald Acuña Jr.’s high chopper eluded the glove of a leaping Kershaw behind the mound for an infield single. Freddie Freeman and Ozuna followed with consecutive RBI doubles, and Kershaw was done in Los Angeles’ third loss in four games since winning its first five in the playoffs.

Kershaw had never pitched near his Dallas home before doing so twice in a week and a half in this unusual postseason, first without fans in an NL Division Series sweep of San Diego and then a pandemic-reduced crowd in the NLCS.

The eight-time All-Star recorded his 11th postseason win in the Dodgers’ 6-5 victory in Game 2 of the NLDS, but he was far from dominant. Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer hit back-to-back homers to cut into a 4-1 deficit.

If the Hall of Fame is in his future, Kershaw won’t be alone among star pitchers who struggled in the playoffs.

Greg Maddux was 11-14 in the playoffs, most of those decisions when Atlanta won just one World Series during a run of 14 straight NL East titles. Randy Johnson was 7-9, and fellow lefty Steve Carlton just 6-6.

Another lefty, David Price, was 2-9 before winning his final three decisions for Boston when the Red Sox won the World Series two years ago.

Each of those has at least one title, though. Kershaw still doesn’t have one despite the club record in playoff starts (28) and innings (177 1/3).

Kershaw now has 11 career postseason starts of allowing at least four runs, tied with Maddux for the second-most. Only Andy Pettitte, another lefty, has more.
Ozuna’s first homer in Game 4 was the 27th Kershaw has allowed in the playoffs, breaking a tie with Justin Verlander for second-most, also behind Pettitte (31).

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