The Dodgers looked like that team from midsummer that stormed to the top of the division, while Clayton Kershaw looked a lot like the pitcher they’ve seen all season.
It all proved too much for the Atlanta Braves, who saw the Dodgers jump out to a 6-1 victory in the opener of their National League division series at Turner Field in Atlanta on Thursday.
Kershaw was dominating, striking out 12 Braves and holding them to the one run on just three hits in his seven innings.
It was the second-most strikeouts in the postseason for a Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, after the 15 New York Yankees Sandy Koufax struck out in the opener of the 1963 World Series.
The Dodgers, meanwhile, scored their six runs on 11 hits. They jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four innings and then let Kershaw bring them home. They made it look pretty easy.
They scored on the speed of Yasiel Puig, the power of Adrian Gonzalez and with two hits each from A.J. Ellis (both doubles) and Mark Ellis.
The Dodgers almost looked like they’d flipped a switch, putting behind their 12-14 September and resembling the team that went 42-8 in the middle of the summer.
The Dodgers will try to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five series Friday when Zack Greinke is scheduled to oppose Atlanta’s Mike Minor.
Here's an inning-by-inning recap of Game 1:
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (bottom of ninth):
Kenley Jansen came on to pitch a scoreless ninth. He walked one and gave up a pop single, and struck out two. It took him, however, 25 pitches.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (middle of ninth):
They're just counting the outs now. The Dodgers went down in order against Atlanta's sixth pitcher, Luis Avilan.
Kenley Jansen is coming in to pitch the bottom of the inning.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (end of eight):
The Braves are running out of time. Brian Wilson took over for Clayton Kershaw in the bottom of the eighth, but not much changed.
The bearded one gave up one single, but otherwise the Braves went quietly. As they mostly have all night.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (middle of eight):
Andre Ethier pinch hit for Clayton Kershaw, ending an outstanding start for the left-hander.
He finished with 12 strikeouts, the second most for a Los Angeles Dodgers' pitcher in the postseason behind Sandy Koufax, who struck out 15 Yankees in Game 1 of the World Series.
Ethier bounced out as the Dodgers went down in order.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (end of seventh):
Clayton Kershaw should be done after pitching a scoreless seventh. He's thrown 124 pitches after striking out the side again.
He has 12 strikeouts, a team division record, and the first time a Dodger had at least 10 in the postseason since Tim Belcher had 10 in Game 2 of the 1988 National League Championship Series.
The Braves tied the Mets for most strikeouts in the National League this season, so watching them whiff against Kershaw wasn't exactly a surprise.
Kershaw gave up the one run on three hits. He did walk three.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (middle of seventh):
The Dodgers went quietly against the Braves' fourth pitcher, left-hander Alex Wood. They went in order, and so quietly, it almost felt like a different game.
Clayton Kershaw was on deck as the last out was recorded and is apparently coming back out to pitch the seventh.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (end of sixth);
Clayton Kershaw is at 104 pitches after six innings, yet somehow just seems to be hitting his stride.
Kershaw retired the side in order again, and struck out six consecutive Braves before Evan Grattis grounded out to end the inning. Kershaw has nine strikeouts.
Been awhile since Turner Field heard that war chant. Fans, those who actually showed, are starting to stream out of the ballpark.
Dodgers 6, Braves 1 (middle of sixth):
Everybody wants in on the act for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers pushed their lead back to five runs after Mark Ellis singled off ex-Angel Jordan Walden and was doubled home by Hanley Ramirez.
Every Dodgers position player but Skip Schumaker has at least one hit, and Schumaker sacrificed their first run in. Through their six innings, the Dodgers have 11 hits.
Dodgers 5, Braves 1 (end of fifth):
After laboring in the fourth, Clayton Kershaw looked more like the pitcher the Dodgers are used to seeing.
He struck out the side on 14 pitches. He now has seven strikeouts on the night.
Dodgers 5, Braves 1 (middle of fifth):
The Dodgers missed an opportunity to blow the game open after loading the bases with one out.
Adrian Gonzalez singled and Yasiel Puig was hit in the back by a pitch, ending the night for right-hander Kris Medlen.
Manager Don Mattingly, as he loves to do, had Juan Uribe of all people, bunt to sacrifice the runners up. Reliever Luis Ayala actually had Gonzalez at third, but oddly elected to throw out Uribe.
Wasn't much of a sacrifice. Ayala was then able to strike out A.J. Ellis and Clayton Kershaw to end the threat.
In his four-plus innings, Medlen allowed five runs on nine hits and a walk, striking out four.
Dodgers 5, Braves 1 (end of fourth):
The Braves scored their first run of the night as Clayton Kershaw wobbled some in the fourth.
Freddie Freeman started it with a one-out single before Kershaw walked Evan Gattis. Brian McCann flied out to the wall, but Chris Johnson bounced a single past shortstop Hanley Ramirez to score Freeman.
Kershaw struck out Andrelton Simmons to end the threat, but through four innings has thrown 77 pitches.
Manager Don Mattingly, in one of those thrilling between-inning TV interviews, on Yasiel Puig: "This cat is some kind of fast."
Dodgers 5, Braves 0 (top of fourth):
Suspense looks to be taking the night off, not that it's upsetting the Dodgers.
A.J. Ellis, playing in the first postseason game of his career, looks pretty comfortable. He doubled for the second time, and after Carl Crawford walked, scored on non-brother Mark Ellis' single up the middle.
Atlanta right-hander Kris Medlen allowed only four earned runs in all of September, when he was the National League Pitcher of the Month. He hadn't allowed as many as five runs in a game since July 7.
Dodgers 4, Braves 0 (bottom of third):
Clayton Kershaw and a 4-0 lead almost gave the game a feeling of being over early. Kershaw displayed a little wildness in the third to give Atlanta hope.
He walked leadoff hitter Andrelton Simmons and then threw a wild pitch to advance him to second. Kershaw looked like he was making Manager Don Mattingly nervous when one out later he started pitcher Kris Medlen 3-0, but he came back to strike him out and get Jason Heyward to bounce out.
Dodgers 4, Braves 0 (top of third):
Things continued to very much go the Dodgers way. After Carl Crawford beat out an infield single, Adrian Gonzalez got all of a Kris Medlen change-up and sent it over the center-field wall for a two-run homer.
It was the first postseason home run for Gonzalez in his 10 major-league seasons.
This is not exactly a promising start for the Braves. When the Dodgers scored three or more runs for Clayton Kershaw this season, they went 15-2.
Dodgers 2, Braves 0 (bottom of the second):
The Braves collected their first hit off Kershaw when an Evan Gattis pop up fell between three Dodgers in right field. Of course, infielders always have to be concerned right-fielder Yasiel Puig may come in with engines blazing, so you can understand if they're a tad timid.
The next two flies went to Puig in right, and on the second one Gattis curiously wandered way too far off the bag and Puig threw to first to double him up. It didn't take one of those bullet throws or anything.
Are the Braves really trying or what? Mistakens killing them early.
Dodgers 2, Braves 0 (top of second):
The Dodgers will take that inning, and the Atlanta defense, any time.
Yasiel Puig collected the game's first hit with a one-out single to center. He threw four throws at first from Kris Medlen at first but never tried to steal. Juan Uribe singled to medium center and Puig flashed his speed, advancing to third without a throw from Jason Heyward. He looked almost stunned at Puig's speed.
The move paid off when Skip Schumaker lifted another fly to medium center to sacrifice Puig home, and then Heyward did a move familiar to Puig, missing the cut-off man, enabling Uribe to take second.
That proved costly when A.J. Ellis lined a drive to left that Evan Gattis mistakenly dove for, and missed. The ball went to the wall for a double to score Uribe.
There was a loud cheer for fan shown on video board holding up a sign that read: "Last government shut down was in 1995," which would be when the Braves last won the World Series.
Dodgers 0, Braves 0 (end of first);
Clayton Kershaw retired the Braves in order. He was hitting 95 mph with his fastball. He couldn't quite match the Medlen challenge, only striking out two.
Am I only the one who thinks that Amish-looking beard on Kershaw just isn't working?
Dodgers 0, Braves 0 (top of the first):
Ah, looks like right-hander Kris Medlen might be up for the challege of facing Clayton Kershaw. All he did was strike out the side to open the game.
Medlen needed only 14 pitches, and let go some impressive curveballs.
Hopefully it's an Los Angeles-type crowd for Game 1 of the Dodgers-Braves divisional series opener and it's late in arriving. Fairly thin so far.
They're handing out 45,000 red, foam rubber tomahawks, so the crowd at Turner Field already has them going, complete with their war chant. Looks like they can't stay upright, though.
Minutes away from the Dodgers going after their first World Series title in 25 years.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun