The Dodgers, their backs to the wall Friday, turned to their best pitcher. It was a win-or-go-home night for Los Angeles.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw was 16-9 in 33 starts this season. His 16 wins were well behind the 21 in 32 starts of the Tigers ALCS Game 6 starter Max Scherzer. But in so many other ways, Kershaw is the better pitcher.
Over 236.0 innings, the 2nd most in all of baseball in 2013, Clayton Kershaw topped MLB in the regular season with a 1.83 ERA. He allowed the fewest walks and hits per innings pitched (0.915). He was 2nd in the MLB for home runs allowed per 9.0 innings pitched (0.420), and he was No. 1 in WAR among pitchers (7.9) and amazingly No. 2 among all players (8.4). WAR is Wins Above Replacement, a stat that you can learn more about here.
And that’s just a smattering of Kershaw’s achievements. The fact is, except for the sheer number of wins in the season, Kershaw topped Scherzer and Verlander in virtually every major statistical measure.
Admittedly, despite his achievements Kershaw’s record vs the Cardinals was bad in 2013 (0-4). Still, Kershaw and Scherzer had remarkably similar and successful early experiences in their respective Championship Series. In Game 2 of the NLCS Kershaw allowed 2 hits and 1 earned run over 6.0 innings pitched. In Game 2 of the ALCS Scherzer allowed 2 hits and 1 earned run over 7.0 innings pitched.
Despite strong outings, both pitchers’ teams lost their games.
But tonight, when Kershaw returned to face the Cardinals in NLCS Game 6, the Cardinals were ready for him. They drubbed him with 10 hits, 7 runs (all of them earned), and 2 walks—and all in 98 pitches over just 4.0 innings of work.
What does mean for the Red Sox tomorrow as they face the Tigers? Not necessarily anything more than this: no performance is guaranteed, no player is invincible, and smart teams learn from their experiences vs an opponent and adjust. And our Boston Red Sox are a smart team, of that I’m sure.