NY Mets and Jacob deGrom defeat Dodgers in Game 1 of 2015 NLDS, 3-1

October 10, 2015

Los Angeles -- An old-fashioned pitchers' duel broke out in Game One of the 2015 National League Division Series, but contrary to expectations, it was not Los Angeles Dodgers star Clayton Kershaw who prevailed, as New York Mets starting pitcher Jacob deGrom threw seven shutout innings and struck out 13 en route to a 3-1 victory over the Dodgers in front of 54,428 at Chavez Ravine on Friday night.

"My change up was good tonight, and I threw a few strikeouts to the lefties, but also was locating my fastball pretty good too," said deGrom, who also held the Dodgers to just five hits.

For the Dodgers, the game provided familiar reminders of the franchise’s recent playoff failings, as the bats were cold, the bullpen collapsed at a key moment, and Kershaw was saddled with another postseason loss, his fifth straight.

Los Angeles entered the game on a four-game winning streak and with the confidence that the postseason would be different this year.  The team upgraded its defense, had home field advantage, injected youth into the roster, and had their heralded ace on the mound.

But it was the flame-throwing deGrom who quickly stole the show from his more famous counterpart on an evening where the temperature soared to 92 degrees.  The slender Mets right-hander hit 98 miles per hour on the radar gun with regularity, escaped trouble with timely strikeouts, and matched Kershaw zero for zero throughout the night.

"Obviously a lot of just velocity, he beat us with that a lot," said Dodgers' Manager Don Mattingly.  "I thought we did a pretty good job with him of not chasing the change or the breaking ball down, but with that you end up chasing some elevated fastballs, and I think he beat us with that a little bit."

The game was the first in MLB postseason history where both starters had 11 or more strikeouts.

The Dodgers threatened early in the second inning when third baseman and former Met Justin Turner hit a lead-off double on a line drive shot that bounced off the glove of left fielder Michael Cuddyer.  However, deGrom quickly neutralized the Dodgers’ attack, striking out Andre Ethier, A.J. Ellis, and Clayton Kershaw to end the inning.

Meanwhile, Kershaw was on his game for much of the evening, as he struck out 11 and was rolling until the fourth inning when the Mets' second baseman Daniel Murphy took a 2-0 pitch deep to right field for a solo home run to give New York a 1-0 lead.

"My first at-bat [Kershaw] chewed me up and spit me out," said Murphy. "I got a lot of sliders that I didn't see well and he put me away with them fairly easy.  The next at-bat I was able to get my foot down a little earlier.  Got a 2-0 heater in the middle of the plate, and I was fortunate to put a good swing on it.  He doesn't make a lot of mistakes and I felt really fortunate to put a good swing on the ball he threw me."

Kershaw nearly answered right back in the fourth when he came to the plate with two men on base and two outs.  He worked deGrom to a full count and hit a solid shot to center that was caught at the warning track by a retreating Yoenis Cespedes.

Kershaw got back into his groove after giving up the blast, shutting down the Mets in the fifth, and pitching a 1-2-3 sixth inning.

In the seventh, an inning that has plagued Kershaw in past playoff games, the Mets loaded the bases with two outs.  Kershaw had thrown 113 pitches by that point and had walked three in the inning.

In past postseason games, Mattingly has often kept Kershaw in the game in the late innings to work through trouble spots, only to have it backfire.  This time, Mattingly elected to pull his lefty ace and inserted hard-throwing right-handed reliever Pedro Baez to face third baseman David Wright, a right-handed batter.

"Going into that inning we kind of looked at what his pitch count was, and kind of thought . . . if we got back to Wright, the fourth time through, David pumps on lefties pretty good," said Mattingly of his decision.  "Felt like that was going to be a spot if we got to that point, thought we were going to make a move there."

Wright lined a 3-2 fastball up the middle past Howie Kendrick to score two runs and stake the Mets to a 3-0 lead.

"I was able to be on time and just try to put a good swing on it," said Wright.

Wright may have indirectly set up that timely hit much earlier in the game when he drew a walk in a 12-pitch at-bat against Kershaw in the first inning.  But for that lengthy at-bat, Kershaw's pitch count might not have been so high, and he might have remained in the game to finish the seventh inning.

After deGrom was lifted in the eighth for reliever Tyler Clippard, the Dodgers rallied briefly when first baseman Adrian Gonzalez's two-out single brought home Kendrick from second base to cut the deficit to 3-1.  Gonzalez had struck out in his three prior at-bats against deGrom.

The Mets then inserted closer Jeurys Familia who shut things down and recorded a four-out save.

Knowing that runs would be at a premium, Mattingly stacked the Dodgers lineup with left-handed hitters against the right-handed deGrom, as he started slumping Joc Pederson in center field, and kept righty outfielders Yasiel Puig and Enrique Hernandez on the bench. He also started hot-hitting rookie Corey Seager at shortstop instead of veteran Jimmy Rollins.

In his playoff debut, Seager finished one-for-four with a double on another misplay by Cuddyer, who took a bad angle to the ball.

Unfortunately for the Dodgers, Pederson and the other hitters stranded too many runners and could never really break through on a night where deGrom tied Tom Seaver's franchise record for strikeouts in a postseason game.

"This guy's a beast," said Wright of deGrom.  "He's a little modest, he won't admit it, but he's a beast."

The Dodgers and Mets combined for 27 strikeouts, one short of the all-time playoff record for a nine-inning game.  More spectacular pitching could be on display again on Saturday in Game 2 of the 2015 NLDS when ERA-leader Zack Greinke (19-3, 1.66 ERA) takes the hill for the Dodgers against the Mets' Noah Syndergaard (9-7, 3.24).

By Mike Elliott
Editor for TheDailySportsHerald.com

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