Los Angeles at Atlanta

W: C. Kershaw (1-0) L: K. Medlen (0-1)
HR: LAD - A. Gonzalez (1)   ATL - None

Kershaw fans 12, Dodgers handle Braves in NLDS opener

CBSSports.com wire reports

ATLANTA -- 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.

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."

Game 2 in the best-of-5 series will be Friday night in Atlanta, with Zack Greinke (15-4) starting for the Dodgers against Mike Minor (13-9).

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 only three hits.

"He turned it up the next three or four innings and we didn't really get good swings at him," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "But offensively I thought we had a good game plan, we followed it, we were patient."

Atlanta struck out 15 times in all.

Even though slugger Matt Kemp is out for the playoffs and Andre Ethier is hobbling with an injured ankle, the Dodgers had no trouble piling up runs against Kris Medlen and the Braves.

The Atlanta starter, who came into the playoffs riding a five-game winning streak, gave up nine hits and five runs in four-plus innings. Medlen finally got the hook when he plunked Yasiel Puig with a pitch right between the shoulder blades.

"I think I need to make better pitches," Medlen said. "I think it was just one of those games where even when I felt like I made pitches, they still found places to put them. They're a great team, and when you have an opposing pitcher on the mound who is as good as Kershaw, I mean, there's not a lot of room for error -- and I had a lot of error tonight."

Of course, Medlen would've fared better if he would gotten any help from the guys behind him.

The Braves played some truly atrocious defense, though they were not charged with an error.

In the second, rookie left fielder Evan Gattis flopped to the ground in an attempt to catch a sinking liner, only to look very much like the converted catcher he is. The ball hit by A.J. Ellis rolled all the way to the wall for an RBI double, putting the Dodgers ahead 2-0 on a play that an outfielder with even a modest amount of experience probably would've grabbed fairly easily.

"I thought there was a couple plays that we could have made," Fredi Gonzalez said. "I think that the guys were just a little amped up."

Adrian Gonzalez began to put it out of reach in the third, driving a pitch over the center-field wall for his first postseason home run, a two-run shot that made it 4-0 as a sense of doom fell over a Turner Field crowd that had been so raucous in the first when Medlen struck out the side.

"Getting that 4-0 lead, we were really comfortable," Gonzalez said.

Not that Atlanta fans haven't seen this all before.

The Braves are perhaps best known for winning only one World Series title during a historic run of 14 consecutive division titles. Now, they're already in the hole as they try to snap a streak of losing seven straight postseason series since 2001.

At least they're not done yet.

After losing to St. Louis in a one-and-done wild-card game last season, which was marred by a disputed infield-fly call, the Braves have a chance to bounce back this time.

In addition to Gattis' stumbling attempt at a catch, second baseman Elliot Johnson bobbled Carl Crawford's grounder leading off the third, a play that was generously ruled a hit by the official scorer. Medlen retired the next two hitters, but Gonzalez drove the next pitch over the wall, with Jason Heyward making a futile leap that left him hanging from the top.

Heyward, who was moved from right field to center as part of an outfield reshuffling, had his own problems. Twice, he overthrew the cutoff man on throws to the plate, allowing runners to advance. Just to add to Atlanta's outfield woes, Justin Upton wasn't even close on a sliding attempt when Ellis doubled down the right-field line in the fourth.

He wound up scoring on Mark Ellis' two-out single, stretching the lead to 5-0.

Gattis, who was one of Atlanta's most pleasant surprises during the regular season, had a miserable night in his postseason debut. He ended the second by somehow getting doubled off first on a lazy fly to short right field.

Dan Uggla watched it all from the dugout. The three-time All-Star was left off the Braves' playoff roster after a dismal season in which he batted only .179 with a franchise-record 171 strikeouts.

Uggla wasn't the only big-money flop for the Braves, who had to juggle their outfield because of B.J. Upton's season-long slump. After signing a five-year, $75.25 million deal during the offseason, he batted only .184 and was finally benched late in the year. Merely a backup in the playoffs, he took a called third strike as a pinch-hitter in the fifth and walked slowly toward the dugout to a chorus of boos.


The Dodgers put Ethier on their 25-man roster even though he can likely only be used as a pinch-hitter because of an ankle injury. He came up in that role in the eighth, batting for Kershaw and grounding out to first base. ... After Medlen struck out the first three hitters of the game, Los Angeles didn't have another 1-2-3 inning until the seventh against Braves rookie Alex Wood. ... Skip Schumaker started in center field for the Dodgers and drove in the first run with a sacrifice fly in the second. ... Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen finished up with one scoreless inning apiece. Jansen struck out three.

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Clayton Kershaw has a stretch of six consecutive strikeouts en route to earning his first postseason victory.  (USATSI)
Clayton Kershaw has a stretch of six consecutive strikeouts en route to earning his first postseason victory. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Los Angeles

A. Gonzalez
AB 5
R 1
H 2
HR 1
Los Angeles

C. Kershaw
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 1
BB 3
K 12

Related Video

Los Angeles (N.L.) Dodgers
Carl Crawford, LF4110120 .250
Mark Ellis, 2B5121011 .400
Hanley Ramirez, SS5011012 .200
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B5122001 .400
Yasiel Puig, RF4120021 .500
Juan Uribe, 3B3110001 .333
Skip Schumaker, CF2001100 .000
A.J. Ellis, C4121013 .500
Clayton Kershaw, P3000025 .000
   a-Andre Ethier, PH1000000 .000
   Brian Wilson, P0000000 .000
   Kenley Jansen, P0000000 .000
a-grounded out for Kershaw in the 8th
2B - Hanley Ramirez (1, Walden), A.J. Ellis 2 (2, Medlen)
HR - Adrian Gonzalez (1, Medlen)
SF - Skip Schumaker (1)
SH - Juan Uribe (1)
RBI - Mark Ellis (1), Hanley Ramirez (1), Adrian Gonzalez 2 (2), Skip Schumaker (1), A.J. Ellis (1)
2-OUT RBI - Mark Ellis (1), Adrian Gonzalez 2 (2), A.J. Ellis (1)
Team LOB - 8
Outfield Assists - Yasiel Puig 1
DP - Puig-Gonzalez
Los Angeles (N.L.) Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw (W,1-0) 73113120 1.29
Brian Wilson 1100000 0.00
Kenley Jansen 1100130 0.00
WP - Clayton Kershaw (1)
Pitches-Strikes - Clayton Kershaw 124-76, Brian Wilson 12-8, Kenley Jansen 25-17
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Clayton Kershaw 5-3, Brian Wilson 3-0
Batters Faced - Clayton Kershaw 26, Brian Wilson 4, Kenley Jansen 5
Atlanta Braves
Jason Heyward, CF4010021 .250
Justin Upton, RF4000010 .000
Freddie Freeman, 1B4110021 .250
Evan Gattis, LF2010200 .500
Brian McCann, C3000114 .000
Chris Johnson, 3B4011023 .250
Andrelton Simmons, SS3010123 .333
Elliot Johnson, 2B4000034 .000
Kris Medlen, P1000011 .000
   Luis Ayala, P0000000 .000
   a-B.J. Upton, PH1000010 .000
   Jordan Walden, P0000000 .000
   Alex Wood, P0000000 .000
   David Carpenter, P0000000 .000
   b-Reed Johnson, PH1000000 .000
   Luis Avilan, P0000000 .000
a-struck out for Ayala in the 5th
b-grounded out for Carpenter in the 8th
RBI - Chris Johnson (1)
2-OUT RBI - Chris Johnson (1)
Team LOB - 7
Atlanta Braves
Kris Medlen (L,0-1) 4955141 11.25
Luis Ayala 1000120 0.00
Jordan Walden 1211010 9.00
Alex Wood 1000000 0.00
David Carpenter 1000010 0.00
Luis Avilan 1000010 0.00
IBB - Schumaker by Luis Ayala
HBP - Puig (by Kris Medlen)
Pitches-Strikes - Kris Medlen 74-47, Luis Ayala 19-11, Jordan Walden 14-10, Alex Wood 17-9, David Carpenter 7-6, Luis Avilan 11-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Kris Medlen 3-5, Luis Ayala 1-0, Jordan Walden 2-0, Alex Wood 1-2, David Carpenter 1-1
Batters Faced - Kris Medlen 23, Luis Ayala 4, Jordan Walden 5, Alex Wood 3, David Carpenter 3, Luis Avilan 3
Game Information
Attendance - 43021
Game Time - 3:24
Temperature - 71
Umpires - Home - Hunter Wendelstedt, First Base - Marvin Hudson, Second Base - John Hirschbeck, Third Base - Bill Miller