This time around, there was no soul-crushing meltdown for Clayton Kershaw.
If anything, Kershaw pitched well in the Dodgers’ postseason opener Friday night. In some moments, he was even extraordinary.
Jacob deGrom just happened to pitch better.
And so the Dodgers were defeated in their home stadium by the New York Mets, 3-1, and are now behind in their best-of-five National League division series, one game to none.
Kershaw still has only one victory in nine career postseason starts, but the latest of his six losses was more of a reflection of deGrom than it was of him.
“I got outpitched,” Kershaw said. “That’s basically the moral of the story. Jacob pitched an amazing game.”
Kershaw was charged with three runs. DeGrom gave up none.
Kershaw pitched 62/3 innings. DeGrom pitched seven.
Kershaw struck out 11 batters. Armed with an electric fastball that was frequently clocked at 97 mph or higher, DeGrom struck out 13, matching a franchise postseason record set by Tom Seaver against the Cincinnati Reds in Game 1 of the 1973 NL Championship Series.
“Obviously, a lot of velocity,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “It just seemed like he beat us with that a lot.”
Never before in baseball history had two pitchers struck out 11 or more batters in the same playoff game. The only other time two pitchers struck out 10 or more in the same game was in Game 5 of the 1944 World Series, when Mort Cooper of the St. Louis Cardinals struck out 12 and Denny
Galehouse of the St. Louis Browns struck out 10.
The Dodgers couldn’t score until deGrom was out of the game. With setup man Tyler Clippard on the mound for the Mets in the eighth inning, Adrian Gonzalez hit an opposite-field single to drive in Howie Kendrick.
By then, the visitors had already scored three runs, building what felt like an insurmountable advantage.
Daniel Murphy stunned the capacity crowd into silence by launching the first pitch of the fourth inning into the visiting bullpen in right field. The home run by the left-handed-hitting Murphy provided the Mets with a 1-0 edge.
The game opened up in the seventh inning.
With two outs, Kershaw walked his third batter of the inning, Curtis Granderson. With the bases loaded and Kershaw’s pitch count at 113, Mattingly removed the ball from his ace’s hand.
Pedro Baez was called on to pitch to David Wright.
As Kershaw watched from the Dodgers’ bench, Wright lined a single into center field, driving in two runs and extending the Mets’ lead to 3-0.
The game was essentially over.
The Dodgers had only seven hits, including five against deGrom.
“We had some chances,” Mattingly said. “We just weren’t able to get that hit early.”
In the early innings, the Dodgers’ only chances were created by Michael Cuddyer, the left fielder for the Mets.
Cuddyer misplayed a line drive by Justin Turner in the second inning, allowing it to go over his head and off of his glove for a leadoff double.
DeGrom struck out the next two batters, Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis. DeGrom intentionally walked Joc Pederson, then struck out Kershaw to end the threat.
Cuddyer misplayed another ball in the third inning, resulting in another double. This time, Cuddyer allowed a high fly ball by Corey Seager to drop inside of the foul line and bounce into the stands for a ground-rule double. Seager didn’t the ball was going to be fair and got a late start out of the batter’s box.
However, Gonzalez, who struck out with Kendrick on first base to end the first inning, struck out again.
Gonzalez played the final weeks of the regular season with a pinched nerve in his lower back that he said weakened his left leg.
Leading up to Friday, Gonzalez said he was confident the problems were behind him.
“It should be 100%,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t think it’s going to be an issue at all. If I don’t get a hit, it’s not because of my back.”
But how he could know?
“It’s not something you completely feel in a one-hour practice,” he acknowledged earlier in the week.
The Dodgers had a runner in scoring position again in the fourth, when Turner and Ellis singled.
For Ellis, the single lengthened his postseason hitting streak to 11 games, equaling a franchise record established over the previous two seasons by Carl Crawford.
But the Dodgers couldn’t capitalize, deGrom retired Pederson and got Kershaw on a deep fly ball to end the inning.
Follow Dylan Hernandez on Twitter @dylanohernandez