Kershaw proved that any concerns about his workload were unfounded as he shut down the Cubs for seven innings and the Dodgers edged Chicago 1-0 to even the National League Championship Series at a game apiece.
The Cubs managed just a pair of fifth-inning singles against Kershaw, the only real threat they mounted against the three-time Cy Young winner and 2014 MVP. Kershaw snuffed that rally by getting Jason Heyward on a weak foul out to third. Heyward is 0-for-12 in his career against Kershaw.
Kershaw outdueled Hendricks, who allowed a second-inning solo homer to Adrian Gonzalez for the game’s only run. Hendricks pitched into the sixth inning and walked four batters, his most since June 24.
It was arguably Kershaw’s best-ever postseason outing. According to the game score metric developed by Bill James, Kershaw’s 80 on Sunday topped his previous best of 76, accomplished on Oct. 3, 2013, in Game 1 of the NLDS against Atlanta.
Hendricks’ 2.13 ERA led the majors this season, but only because Kershaw (1.69 ERA in 140 innings) didn’t qualify after missing 2 1/2 months with a bad back. According to Elias, it was the first playoff game between starters with ERAs below 2.25 since the Cardinals’ Bob Gibson faced 30-game winner Denny McLain in the 1968 World Series.
It was a matchup worthy of the historical hype. Kershaw rolled through the Cubs for 4 2/3 innings, setting down the first 14 batters he faced. He threw just 31 pitches through three innings and just 40 through four.
According to ESPN Stats & Information, he became the first Dodger to retire his first 14 opponents in a playoff game since Sandy Koufax in the 1963 World Series.
Kershaw started Game 2 after throwing 110 pitches in an NLDS start on Tuesday against Washington and seven more in earning a series-clinching save two days later. But he was sharp from the outset, hitting 94 mph with his fastball with regularity and striking out Kris Bryant with a 96 mph heater in the first.
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ playoff malaise at the plate continues. Chicago is hitting just .194 during the playoffs. Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo (0-for-3 with a walk) and shortstop Addison Russell (0-for-3) are a combined 2-for-45 in the postseason with just one hit apiece. They ranked first and third, respectively, in RBIs for the Cubs during the regular season.
Game 3 is Tuesday at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles.