2019 NLDS: Clayton Kershaw Blames 2nd Inning For Dodgers’ Loss To Nationals In Game 2

The Los Angeles Dodgers were unable to dig themselves out of an early hole and consequently fell to the Washington Nationals, 4-2, in Game 2 of the 2019 National League Division Series.

Clayton Kershaw took the mound for what was the 31st postseason appearance of his career and struggled right out of the gate. Trea Turner pulled a double down the third base line on the very first pitch of the game — just out of the reach of Justin Turner — and immediately gave the Nationals their first opportunity with a runner in scoring position.

After retiring Adam Eaton on a failed bunt attempt, Kershaw proceeded to walk Anthony Rendon and hit Juan Soto in back-to-back plate appearances. With the bases loaded and only one out, Howie Kendrick delivered an RBI single to give the Nationals an early lead.

Kershaw was able to bounce back from there, getting Ryan Zimmerman to pop out in foul territory before striking out Kurt Suzuki to end the inning. “I was able to get out of that first inning with limited damage,” Kershaw said.

“That inning could’ve gotten bigger, obviously, so I was thankful to get out of it with one (run allowed). That’s not what killed us. The second inning was not good.”

While Kershaw was able to limit the damage in the first inning, his command issues would resurface in the top half of the second. He hit his second batter of the night in Victor Robles, matching his total from the regular season.

“I got two strikes on Soto and just wanted to get something up and in to get him off the slider,” Kershaw explained. “Got a little bit too far in there. I didn’t even know it hit him. I don’t know why. They just happened.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner responded by retiring Stephen Strasburg and Turner in back-to-back plate appearances — again in position to potentially escape the inning unscathed.

That’s when Eaton delivered a deflating RBI single on a 2-2 count before Rendon drove him in with a double on the next pitch. “That was the decision of the game, really,” Kershaw said.

“You get two strikes with two outs, they shouldn’t score any runs at that point and they scored two more. That was the difference in the game.”

Despite yielding three runs over his first two innings of work, Kershaw settled down from that point on by tossing four consecutive scoreless frames. He finished his night with a quality start, allowing the three runs on six hits in six innings pitched.

“Not really,” answered Kershaw when asked if there was anything specific to finding his groove in the middle innings. “You just get leadoff hitters out, that’s huge. That’s really big, definitely minimizes damage.”

While Kershaw was disappointed with the outing, and amid some suspicion he may have tipped pitches, he still kept the Dodgers within striking distance for most of the game. They trailed, 3-1, after six innings and squandered a couple of opportunities late to even the score.

L.A. now heads to Nationals Park for Games 3 and 4 of the NLDS, where they’ll look to win at least one of them to force a potential win-or-go-home matchup at Dodger Stadium.