CHICAGO - So much for the playoff struggles.
It was the one knock in the otherwise brilliant pitching career of Clayton Kershaw. He tended to have issues in the postseason with a career 3-6 record and unsightly 4.79 ERA during his tenure with the Dodgers. In two starts against the Nationals in the National League Division Series he allowed eight earned runs in three appearances after posting a 1.69 ERA during the regular season.
No such luck for the Cubs and their electric fan base that was hoping for their first 2-0 NLCS lead in 32 years.
In a break from his postseason norm, Kershaw was a dominant force on the mound for seven innings on Sunday night as he routinely shut down Cubs batters. He surrendered only two hits on the night, one walk while striking out six Cubs in pacing a 1-0 victory the quelled some of the team's enthusiasm following a pair of late-inning wins.
"Give him credit, man. I thought he pitched primarily with his fastball. The thing that I was really curious about was velocity and location before the game, and he had both,' said Cubs manager Joe Maddon of Kershaw. "Command of his fastball was outstanding. He didn't really have his curveball today, which should have worked in our favor."
Kershaw was not only effective but also efficient as he tied his postseason-high with seven innings pitched while throwing just 84 pitches. In two shorter starts in the NLDS Kershaw was over 100 pitches.
"I honestly thought with him pitching on a couple of days of rest he wasn't going to be that nasty but obviously he came ready for us," said surging Cubs second baseman Javier Baez - one of two Cubs to manage to get hit off the pitcher. "He just did his job."
Baez had perhaps the most thrilling offensive play of the night - a long out. On what would be Kershaw's final pitch in the 7th inning the second baseman drove a pitch to the warning track in center field only to have it tracked down by Joc Pederson to end the inning.
Before the at bat, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts appeared to be headed to the mound to take out Kershaw but the pitcher talked him out of it.
"I thought it was out, for sure. He hit it pretty good," said Kershaw of the Baez drive. "And yeah, after Dave came out and that, I kind of talked my way into it. I really wanted to -- he was probably not going to trust me again after that, but, fortunately, he hit it at somebody, so it was good."
Not for Kyle Hendricks who has to take the hard-luck loss thanks to Kershaw's brilliance. The Cubs' No. 2 starter was effective in 5 2/3 innings, striking out five batters while allowing just three hits with four walks. His only mistake, however, would be the difference as a second-inning opposite field homer by Adrian Gonzalez into the first row of bleachers in left for the game's only run.
"I didn't get deep in the game like I wanted to but at least kept us in it and gave us a chance, once swing away," said Hendricks.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, Kershaw never let them get that as the NLCS heads to Los Angeles tied at 1.