Brewers win 12th straight, Clayton Kershaw's playoff struggles continue in wild Game 1 of NLCS

Associated Press

Brewers reliever Brandon Woodruff stunned Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw with a solo home run, and the normally superb Brewers bullpen barely held on for a 6-5 win Friday night in Game 1 of the NL Championship Series.

Hard-throwing Josh Hader and the Brewers earned their 12th straight win, one shy of the franchise record set to open the 1987 season.

The Dodgers scored three times in the eighth to make it 6-4, then nearly tied it in the ninth. Chris Taylor hit an RBI triple off center fielder Lorenzo Cain's glove with two outs before Corey Knebel fanned Justin Turner to end it.

Game 2 is Saturday at Miller Park, with Wade Miley pitching for the Brewers against Hyun-Jin Ryu.

Kershaw was chased before he could retire in the fourth inning.

Manny Machado homered and drove in three runs for the Dodgers. They committed four errors, including two by catcher Yasmani Grandal, who also had two passed balls. But another playoff flop for the ace left-hander might be the Dodgers’ biggest concern.

Kershaw holds the team records for playoff wins (eight), starts (21), innings (133) and strikeouts (144), but is just 8-8 with a 4.26 ERA in 26 career postseason appearances. The Dodgers dropped to 13-13 when the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner takes the mound in the playoffs.

The 30-year-old Kershaw quieted some of those October questions when the Dodgers won the NL pennant last year for the first time since 1988, going 3-0 with a 3.82 ERA in six appearances. He pitched six sparkling innings in the NLCS-clinching victory at Wrigley Field against the Cubs and worked four scoreless innings in relief in Los Angeles' Game 7 loss to Houston in the World Series.

After he was passed over for the Game 1 start in the NL Division Series this year, the 2014 NL MVP responded with eight innings of two-hit ball in a 3-0 victory over Atlanta.

The victory against the Baby Braves was one of his best playoff performances. The loss against the Brewers was one of his worst.

The night started to get away from Kershaw and the Dodgers when Woodruff led off the third inning with a massive drive to right-center, becoming the third reliever in major league history to homer in a postseason game.

Kershaw glanced back with an incredulous look as Woodruff's ball soared over the wall, tying it at 1 and sending a charge through the sellout crowd of 43,615.

A passed ball and an interference call on Grandal helped set up Hernan Perez's sacrifice fly before Kershaw minimized the damage by striking out Mike Moustakas, stranding two runners in scoring position and leading to his emotional display as he headed toward the dugout.

Whatever he was trying to do, it didn't work.

The Dodgers went down in order in the fourth and the Brewers’ first three batters reached in the bottom half, chasing Kershaw and producing two more runs on Domingo Santana's pinch-hit single. Santana swiped second and scored on Ryan Braun's two-out single against Ryan Madson.

Braun's clutch swing closed the book on Kershaw, who was charged with five runs, four earned, and six hits. He dropped to 2-5 with a 5.24 ERA in 11 career NLCS games.

Kershaw's shortest playoff start before Friday was four-plus innings in a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS in St. Louis, ending the Dodgers’ season.

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