Aggressive Diamondbacks offense crushes Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers in Game 1

Oct 8, 2023, 12:19 AM | Updated: 12:24 am

LOS ANGELES — The Arizona Diamondbacks chased Los Angeles Dodgers star pitcher Clayton Kershaw with a six-spot during the first inning of Game 1 in the National League Division Series on Saturday.

The D-backs kept the pressure on in one of their most productive offensive performances in franchise history to beat the Dodgers 11-2 and improve to 3-0 in the postseason.

Ketel Marte led off with a 115.7 mph rocket that bounced out of Dodgers center fielder James Outman’s glove and catcher Gabriel Moreno’s three-run blast off Kershaw broke the game open before some fans parked their cars.

Kershaw exited with one out in the first, the shortest start of his MLB career, after allowing five straight hits to open the ballgame.

Outfielder Corbin Carroll led off the second inning with a 421-foot no-doubter, as Arizona tacked on nine runs before the Dodgers’ fifth hitter came up to the plate.

“It was great to come out the gate swinging it, thought there was a lot of quality at-bats just like it’s been all postseason for us,” Carroll said. “It’s taken a full team and collective effort to get these wins.”

Carroll started 2-for-2 with a pair of RBIs, picking up his third straight multi-hit game of the playoffs. Tommy Pham was 3-for-3 before Dodgers nine-hole hitter Miguel Rojas stepped into the batter’s box.

The offense was aggressive early in counts, as six of Arizona’s first nine hits came on the first three pitches of an at-bat. Every ball hit was scorched over the first two innings, as Arizona’s average exit velocity off Kershaw was 105.2 mph on seven balls in play.

“Calculated aggression, pick good pitches in the zone, don’t just swing just to swing, the plan was not to just go out and ambush him,” first baseman Christian Walker — who had an RBI double in the first inning — said. “The plan was to to make sure we’re making good decisions, put ourselves in a position to be offensive.”

The home crowd switched from booing to quiet and booing again.

Seven of nine starters in the D-backs’ lineup drove in at least a run, and eight recorded hits.

Arizona’s 11 runs matched the second-highest scoring postseason game in franchise history, only trailing Game 6 of the 2001 World Series (15-2 against the Yankees). Its 13 hits tied for third most in team history for a playoff game.

“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” Pham said. “You shouldn’t ever feel like it’s one guy’s job.”

“They executed at a really high level today,” manager Torey Lovullo said. “Three innings, two pitchers had thrown 100 pitches at us and one of them being Clayton Kershaw. I couldn’t be more proud of our guys for that.”

Alek Thomas’ 14-pitch battle

Outfielder Alek Thomas fought for Arizona’s 10th run of the game in the seventh inning. He fouled 11 balls off in a 14-pitch at-bat against Dodgers righty Michael Grove, capping the rally with a solo shot to right-center field.

Thomas called it probably the longest at-bat of his life.

“No matter what the score is, we’re going to put our best foot forward and try to compete and that’s what I tried to do,” Thomas said.

He saw the most pitches in a plate appearance resulting in a postseason home run since pitch count tracking began in 1988, according to MLB researcher Sarah Langs.

Thomas, Carroll and Moreno each have a pair of home runs this postseason, a unique feat for a group of 23-year-olds:

4-hit Pham

The 11th D-backs run also came via the home run, a solo shot to the opposite field by Pham in the eighth inning.

That was Pham’s fourth hit of the game, and he is now one of three Diamondbacks with a four-hit playoff performance (Jake Lamb in 2017 and Reggie Sanders in 2001).

Merrill Kelly conquers Dodgers

Diamondbacks starter Merrill Kelly had to answer questions about his past shortcomings against the Dodgers going into Game 1. He responded with 6.1 scoreless innings in which he induced weak contact and worked quickly.

Kelly retired 11 hitters in a row at one point, and only once did a runner reach third base. L.A.’s top two hitters Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman went 0-for-5 with a walk in their combined plate appearances against Kelly.

Betts led off the first inning with a 10-pitch at-bat, but the Arizona right-hander caught Betts looking at a sinker on the outside corner.

“With how many games I’ve thrown against these guys, we took a look at all the pitches that I’ve thrown against them and how I’ve kind of gotten beat,” Kelly said. “But I think the main reason why today ended up better than they have in the past is the aggressiveness in the zone and being able to get ahead of people and not try to nitpick and get behind them.”

With a 10-0 lead in the seventh inning, Lovullo pulled Kelly a bit early at 89 pitches. Kelly earned his first career win against the Dodgers, as he is 0-11 in the regular season.

“He was ahead in counts, and I think he controlled counts and controlled at-bats as good as we’ve seen him all year long,” Lovullo said.

Joe Mantiply recorded the final two outs of the seventh before Miguel Castro let in the first two runs by a D-backs reliever this postseason in the eighth. Luis Frias executed a 1-2-3 ninth inning to end the game.

Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw became the first pitcher in postseason history with five earned runs before recording an out, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

He called the performance embarrassing and disappointing. It was the first time he allowed six runs in a postseason appearance since the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts said there was nothing physically wrong with Kershaw and that he remains in line to start Game 4 if necessary.

“It seemed like they were on everything he threw up there,” Roberts said. “Usually Clayton does a great job of controlling, managing damage. And tonight unfortunately we didn’t do that.”

Diamondbacks-Dodgers Game 2

The series takes a break on Sunday before Game 2 on Monday night at 6:07 p.m.

Zac Gallen will start for the D-backs against Los Angeles rookie Bobby Miller.

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