First pitch: 10:08 p.m. ET
Probable pitchers: Brandon Woodruff (3-5, 3.05 ERA) vs. Clayton Kershaw (6-2, 2.16 ERA)
Milwaukee Brewers vs. Los Angeles Dodgers Predictions
Ah, Clayton Kershaw and the playoffs. It’s one of the most popular baseball-related conversations basically in recent memory.
The narrative is that the former National League MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner (not to mention a rare and special Triple Crown accolade) can’t consistently get the job done once the calendar flips to the postseason and sustain his dominant regular-season form.
Au contraire, it just isn’t true. Yes, Kershaw’s career 9-11 record and 4.43 ERA at this stage is far below what we’ve come to expect from the future Hall-of-Famer. But I can assure you he’s better than his numbers suggest at first glance.
First of all, there have been plenty of instances with Kershaw on the mound in October in which he would shut down the opposing lineup for five, six or seven frames before unraveling in his final inning of work. He’s also been fairly unlucky with the number of inherited runners to the Dodger bullpen that score when he exits.
He’s been better anyway the last two postseasons, pitching into the seventh inning or deeper in four of six starts. Last year he picked up a blown save during a relief appearance after eerily surrendering back-to-back homers to yield the lead, but that had more to do with questionable decision-making from manager Dave Roberts by leaving him in another inning.
In his lone start in that NLDS with the eventual World Series-winning Washington Nationals, Kershaw managed to churn out a quality start. Here, he draws a lighter-hitting club — and one he handled well in the NLCS the year prior.
Not only did Kershaw come through in shutting the door out of the bullpen in the decisive Game 7, he also had an assignment that saw him go seven strong and allow one run while striking out nine.
This current Brewers lineup won’t even be as difficult to navigate through. Though they do have the reigning NL MVP, Christian Yelich, it’s a batting order comprised mostly of journeymen. And overall, Milwaukee hit only .241 against left-handed pitching this season. Perhaps most notably, they also struck out once every 3.4 at-bats with a lefty doing the bidding, which could greatly play into the favor of Kershaw if he’s racking up the Ks.
The pitcher whom Kershaw opposed twice (as a primary pitcher following an opener) in that aforementioned 2018 NLCS is set to meet him again for another October date, the underrated Brandon Woodruff.
The Brewer right-hander may not posses nearly as much playoff experience as his counterpart but he has been picking up considerable work in the postseason as of late — and providing his usual solid work.
In fact, across the last pair of Octobers, Woodruff logged 16.1 innings and gave up just three earned runs total. That’s good for a 1.65 ERA and in the process, he crafted a pretty 23-3 K/BB ratio as well.
Teammate Corbin Burnes — who is sidelined right now with an injury — may have overshadowed Woodruff this year while contending for the Cy Young but that shouldn’t take away from what Milwaukee’s opening day starter accomplished in this crazy 2020 season.
Only three pitchers in the league posted a lower batting average against than Woodruff’s impressive .204 mark, and his strikeout rate of 11.1 K/9 ranked 10th best in the Majors. Furthermore, he was one of only nine starters with a WHIP below 1.00.
As for if he can handle pressure — with this being a must-win situation for the Brew Crew — Woodruff just pitched and thrived in a similar scenario last Saturday when he notched eight shutout innings of two-hit baseball and also punched out 10.
Relax about Kershaw’s supposed postseason demons; they will not interfere this time. Coinciding with another dandy of an outing from Woodruff, not to mention quality relief work from two stellar bullpens, there shouldn’t be much scoring.
2020 MLB Over/Under Betting Record*
Regular season: 19-42-4, -28.91 units
Postseason: 2-0, +1.5 units
Yesterday’s Result: Reds-Braves Under 7.5 (WIN)
*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit (postseason 0.5 unit except first one)