LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw still hasn’t figured out how to dominate in October. This time, he couldn’t even keep the ball in the yard.
Justin Turner and the Los Angeles Dodgers made sure it hardly mattered in a strong post-season opener.
Turner homered and drove in five runs, Kershaw won despite giving up four long balls and the Dodgers roared to a 9-5 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday night in Game 1 of their NL Division Series.
Turner hit a three-run homer and Yasiel Puig added an RBI double before Los Angeles made its first out against starter Taijuan Walker, who lasted just one inning in his playoff debut. Turner, the red-bearded slugger with post-season poise, added an RBI single in the fourth and another in the eighth to tie the Dodgers record for most RBIs in a post-season game.
With his teammates providing such a generous cushion, Kershaw could afford to allow a few big flies in the first victory of his checkered post-season career at Dodger Stadium. He improved to 5-7 in the playoffs.
“Yeah, he gave up four solo homers, but who cares?” asked Turner, batting .397 with 17 RBIs in his last 17 post-season games. “When you have a lead like that, it’s about attacking guys, not giving up free bases and pounding the zone. So I thought he was spectacular for us tonight.”
Kershaw yielded back-to-back homers into the short left-field porch by light-hitting Ketel Marte and Jeff Mathis on his final two pitches in the seventh, making him the first pitcher in team history and the eighth in baseball history to give up four home runs in a post-season game.
LA’s big lead was down to 7-4 when the three-time Cy Young Award winner left, but the suspense didn’t last: Turner and the 104-win Dodgers added two more runs in the eighth, capping a 12-hit performance.
“It just wasn’t coming out as good as I would have liked it to that last inning,” said Kershaw, who gave up five hits in 6 1/3 innings. “So they hit some good pitches. Not really. I just didn’t have much left. I don’t know. Hopefully, when you give up hits, maybe one or two would stay in the ballpark, but tonight it didn’t seem like that was going to happen. Obviously a frustrating way to end it, but thankfully we had a big lead.”
Game 2 is Saturday night, with Rich Hill facing Robbie Ray and the Diamondbacks in a matchup of left-handers.
Puig and Corey Seager both tripled and drove in two runs for the Dodgers, who finished 11 games ahead of Arizona to earn their fifth consecutive NL West crown.
A.J. Pollock and J.D. Martinez also homered off Kershaw, but Arizona’s euphoria from its wild-card victory over Colorado was erased during a rough first inning in Chavez Ravine. Los Angeles’ first five batters reached base, punctuated by Turner’s shot and Puig’s line-drive double that scored rookie Cody Bellinger.
Arizona ended a five-year playoff absence Wednesday with a rollicking 11-8 victory over the Rockies that was described by manager Torey Lovullo as “one of the most emotional days I’ve had in my career.”
But that tough game bit the Diamondbacks in Los Angeles when Walker needed 48 pitches to get out of the first inning. Playing from behind all night, Arizona couldn’t catch up.
“Well, we have been very resilient,” Lovullo said. “We’ve had some tough losses, and this is playoff baseball. We know that we’re built for moments like this. We’ve been battle-tested all year long. It’s one game. It was a tough day for us.”
Ray was supposed to start this series opener, but was pressed into relief against the Rockies when ace Zack Greinke faltered — and Walker couldn’t come through in his place.
“I just felt like they had a really good game plan against me,” Walker said. “They were sitting on the fastball most of the time.”
Zack Godley pitched five innings of relief, but Turner, Puig and Seager added RBIs in the fourth for a 7-1 lead.
Kershaw struck out seven, but the ace left-hander’s frequent inability to match his regular-season brilliance in October remains a constant presence. He struggled with the long ball again after serving up a career-high 23 homers during the regular season, but still earned his fifth career post-season victory — one shy of the franchise record — in 15 starts.
Pollock made his post-season debut with two extra-base hits in the wild-card game, and he added a homer in the third inning for Arizona’s first hit off Kershaw.
But Seager hit an RBI triple in the eighth, and Turner drove him home.
“We gave them a run for their money there towards the middle, end of the game,” Martinez said. “They had to execute, and they had to put up a couple more runs. So you tip your hat to them, (but) I feel a lot more confident the way we battled back in that game.”
The Diamondbacks still won’t lack for confidence against the mighty Dodgers. Arizona beat its division rivals six straight times down the regular-season stretch, and were one of two teams with a winning record against Los Angeles this season.
Puig had another standout game in his late-season surge, and the Cuban right fielder also provided some entertainment. He slid headfirst into third base on his triple in the seventh inning with his tongue wagging at the Dodgers’ dugout, drawing roars of laughter from his teammates.
“I don’t know why,” Puig said. “I feel maybe ice cream in front of me, or something like that.”
Earlier in the game, Puig licked his bat between pitches — and moments later, he remembered that pine tar doesn’t taste so great.
“He’s called the Wild Horse for a reason,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “Just sometimes you shake your head. Sometimes you smile.”
Turner now shares the Dodgers record for RBIs in a post-season game with Pedro Guerrero, who had five in the 1981 World Series, and Davey Lopes, who did it in the 1978 World Series.
Vin Scully attended the Dodgers’ first post-season game since their Hall of Fame announcer retired. Scully got his customary standing ovation when shown on the stadium scoreboard.
Hill (12-8) allowed opponents to bat .203 in his first full Dodgers season, showing off veteran guile and pitch versatility while battling blisters. Ray was 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in five starts against the Dodgers this season.