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Dodgers Dugout: Will the real Clayton Kershaw please stand up?

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershawand shortstop Enrique Hernandez fail to prevent an infield single against Atlanta on Thursday.
It was one of those nights for the Dodgers.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and I thought I was watching a replay of a 2013 playoff game. Or 2014. Or 2015. Or 2016. Or 2017. Or 2018. Or 2019.

Some random Game 4 thoughts:

—The loss is all my fault because I changed shirts after the Game 3 win.

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—Here’s the problem with Clayton Kershaw. It’s not that he is always bad in the postseason. He’s not. He’s pitched some great games, including this postseason. It’s just that it seems when the Dodgers really need him, he has an inning where everything falls apart.

—It happened in Game 4. It happens at least one key game every year. And that’s a big reason why the these core Dodgers have never won a World Series.

—It doesn’t help that Dave Roberts sticks with him too long. Always at least two batters too long.

—And it never seems to fail that the reliever brought in to relieve Kershaw can’t get anyone out. Game 4 was Brusdar Graterol‘s turn.

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—But it’s not all on Kershaw. The offense seems to fail him often. As does the bullpen. As does Roberts.

—Every playoffs, in one key game, there comes a convergence of the four problems that seem to kill the Dodgers: Struggling offense, shaky Kershaw, bad managing, ineffective bullpen. All four of these happen at the same time in a key game every year. It seems impossible, but it happens.

—Of course, part of me also wonders: If Roberts had taken Kershaw out after five innings and brought in Graterol to start the sixth, and Graterol pitched like he did Thursday, would we then be criticizing Roberts for pulling Kershaw too early? It’s so, so easy to manage from your sofa. All my sofa moves work out 100% of the time.

—Of course, that doesn’t change what actually happened.

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—For you newer Dodgers fans who grew up watching Kershaw and defend him no matter what (and there’s a lot to defend), there’s a reason older fans get particularly frustrated: The Dodgers have a rich history of staff aces stepping up and pitching better in the playoffs. Let’s take a look:

Dodgers starters ERAs in the postseason (minimum five starts):

Sandy Koufax, 0.95

Orel Hershiser, 1.71

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Fernando Valenzuela, 2.00

Tommy John, 2.08

Johnny Podres, 2.11

Zack Greinke, 2.38

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Rich Hill, 2.70

Walker Buehler, 2.74

Don Drysdale, 2.95

Jerry Reuss, 3.04

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Burt Hooton, 3.17

Don Sutton, 3.34

Hyun-jin Ryu, 4.05

Clayton Kershaw, 4.31

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Carl Erskine, 5.83

Don Newcombe, 8.59

—Just look at that. When you are being compared to Dodger pitchers of the past, you have to step up in the playoffs. No one is sitting around talking about how poorly Hyun-jin Ryu does in the playoffs. Kershaw is one of the best regular-season pitchers in history. But he doesn’t match the legend when it counts. And I take no pride or joy in saying that. But it’s the truth.

—The other problem: with the wind swirling, it was near impossible to hit a homer. But the Dodgers kept swinging for the fences and hitting fly balls, while the Braves hitters were focused on line drives.

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—With all that wind, I thought the game was being held at Candlestick Park.

—Why was the roof open on such a windy night? MLB wanted it open because fans were in the stands. It lessened coronavirus concerns. Better open air than recycled air.

—And with both teams having to battle the wind, everything was even.

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—Also, it seems every year, other teams start playing at a higher level, while the Dodgers keep playing at the same level as they do during the season. A good level, but they can’t seem to find that extra gear.

—So far in his young career, Edwin Ríos is a home run machine.

—In his career, Ríos is averaging a home run every 9.43 at-bats. Babe Ruth averaged one every 11.7 at-bats. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s a fun stat.

—Clayton Kershaw in the postseason:

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Wild-card round: 1-0. 0.00 ERA
NLDS: 6-4, 4.02 ERA
NLCS: 3-6, 4.84 ERA
World Series: 1-2, 5.40 ERA

—I don’t understand why Joe Buck feels the need to re-explain everything John Smoltz just told us, like we can’t understand it on our own. “What you are saying is....” No, we understood it the first time. (Yes, I like picking on Joe Buck).

—It was weird to hear Smoltz, whose job in this series is to be a second-guesser and armchair quarterback, go on a harangue about all the second guessers and armchair quarterbacks out there.

—Later in the game, Smoltz said “If the Dodgers lose this game, they want a Game 7.” Well, yeah, I guess they do.

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—The Dodgers now have to win three in a row. Impossible? No. Likely? No.

—If they win tomorrow, the will have to beat Max Fried in Game 6 and Ian Anderson in Game 7. A tall order.

Dustin May gets the ball today. No pressure.

—I stick with my prediction: Dodgers in seven.

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Then there’s this

Teams that have rallied from a 3-1 deficit to win a best-of-seven MLB postseason series

1925 World Series, Pittsburgh Pirates d. Washington Senators

1958 World Series, NY Yankees d. Milwaukee Braves

1968 World Series, Detroit Tigers d. St. Louis Cardinals

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1979 World Series, Pittsburgh Pirates d. Baltimore Orioles

1985 ALCS, Kansas City Royals d. Toronto Blue Jays

1985 World Series, Kansas City Royals d. St. Louis Cardinals

1986 ALCS, Boston Red Sox d. Angels

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1996 NLCS, Atlanta Braves d. St. Louis Cardinals

2003 NLCS, Florida Marlins d. Chicago Cubs

2004 ALCS, Boston Red Sox d. NY Yankees

2007 ALCS, Boston Red Sox d. Cleveland Indians

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2012 NLCS, San Francisco Giants d. St. Louis Cardinals

2016 World Series, Chicago Cubs d. Cleveland Indians

Dodgers-Braves schedule

Here’s the NLCS schedule. The Dodgers will be the home team for Games 1, 2, 6 and 7. All times are Pacific. All game at Arlington, Texas.

Game 1: Atlanta 5, Dodgers 1

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Game 2: Atlanta 8, Dodgers 7

Game 3: Dodgers 15, Atlanta 3

Game 4: Atlanta 10, Dodgers 2

Game 5: Tonight, 6 p.m., Dodgers (Dustin May) vs. Atlanta (TBD), FS1, AM 570

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Game 6*: Saturday, 1:30 p.m., Atlanta (Max Fried) vs. Dodgers (Walker Buehler), FS1, AM 570

Game 7*: Sunday, 5:15 p.m., Atlanta (Ian Anderson) vs. Dodgers (Tony Gonsolin), Fox and FS1, AM 570

*-If necessary

In case you missed it

Bill Plaschke: Dodgers’ October nightmare is once again staring them in the face

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Dylan Hernández: Clayton Kershaw doesn’t deserve all the blame for the Dodgers’ Game 4 woes

Clayton Kershaw’s friends crave for his success — and anguish in his struggles

Despite their money and analytics, Dodgers keep disappointing in playoffs

Photos: Dodgers lose to Atlanta Braves in Game 4 of NLCS

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And finally

Dodgers win Game 5 of the 2017 NLCS. Watch it here.

Until next time...

Have a comment or something you’d like to see in a future Dodgers newsletter? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com, and follow me on Twitter at @latimeshouston. To get this newsletter in your inbox, click here.


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