Dodgers beat Braves, Cardinals rout Pirates
ATLANTA (AP) — Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers opened the playoffs looking intent on ending that quarter-century drought since their last World Series championship.
For the Atlanta Braves, another dose of October misery.
Kershaw struck out 12 during seven dominant innings, Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer and the Dodgers beat the bumbling Braves 6-1 in Game 1 of the NL division series Thursday night.
In the other NLDS series opener, Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning as the St. Louis Cardinals delivered a reality jolt to the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 9-1 rout.
The big-money Dodgers haven’t won a Series title since 1988 — by far their longest dry spell since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Southern California in 1958.
In an interesting twist, Kershaw was born just a few months before that most recent title. If the left-hander keeps pitching the way he did against Atlanta, the Dodgers might have a chance to go all the way again.
“He’s the best pitcher in baseball,” Gonzalez said, “and he showed it tonight.”
Kershaw, who had a 1.83 ERA during the regular season, limited the Braves to Chris Johnson’s run-scoring single with two outs in the fourth. That just seemed to make the pitcher mad — he struck out Andrelton Simmons to end Atlanta’s only serious threat, and the next five Braves hitters for good measure.
Appropriately, Kershaw finished up by striking out the side in the seventh, matching his season high for Ks. He allowed just three hits.
The Braves struck out 15 times in all.
At St. Louis, the first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early. A sellout crowd roared early and then settled in for an easy victory.
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 Friday.
The Pirates ended a 21-year postseason drought and entered their first best-of-five division series with apparent momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday. They never threatened to rally against Cardinals’ ace Adam Wainwright and finished with only four hits.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors. St. Louis was sharp on defense, with reliever Carlos Martinez turning in the top play by slinging an off-balance throw to first to nip Russell Martin.
Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts. He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage coming on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.
The right-hander tied for the NL lead with 19 wins this year and was 4-0 in his last five starts.