Clayton Kershaw tossed eight innings of two-hit ball in the Dodgers’ second straight playoff shutout, and Manny Machado slugged a two-run homer as Los Angeles beat the Atlanta Braves 3-0 on Friday night for a 2-0 lead in their NL Division Series.
The Dodgers used a nearly identical formula to win 6-0 in Game 1 behind Hyun-Jin Ryu, who allowed only four two-out singles over seven innings, and home runs by Joc Pederson, Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez.
Kershaw was even better. The left-hander struck out three and walked none in remaining unbeaten against Atlanta throughout his illustrious career.
“I think that it was one of the best outings that I’ve seen,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was in complete control.”
Los Angeles can sweep the best-of-five series in Game 3 on Sunday in Atlanta, where the Baby Braves will be looking to score for the first time this postseason.
Kershaw got bypassed as the Game 1 starter in favor of Ryu after the three-time Cy Young Award winner had started eight of the Dodgers’ past 10 postseason openers. Roberts said it was done to give both Ryu and Kershaw five days of rest between starts.
One more victory would put Los Angeles in the NL Championship Series for the third straight year. The Dodgers beat the Cubs in the NLCS last season and lost to them in that round in 2016.
Kershaw ran out to the mound as though he was going to pitch the ninth, bringing cheers from the sellout crowd of 54,452. But when Roberts went out to pull his ace after 85 pitches, fans booed.
Kenley Jansen gave up a one-out single to Ronald Acuna Jr. before earning the save.
Machado hit a two-run shot on a 3-0 pitch from Anibal Sanchez with two outs in the first. Joc Pederson doubled leading off.
Yasmani Grandal homered on an 0-2 pitch from Sanchez leading off the fifth to make it 3-0.
Acuna doubled to deep left-center on Kershaw’s first pitch. He became the first Braves runner to reach third base in the series when Johan Camargo grounded out to Kershaw.
After Acuna’s double, Kershaw retired 14 consecutive batters until Ender Inciarte reached on an infield single with two outs in the fifth. Ex-Dodger Charlie Culberson grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop, with Inciarte out at second.
Kershaw was sharp on defense, too.
He chased around to grab a ball hit by Camargo and fired to first in time for the initial out of the fourth.
One inning later, Kershaw did a 180-degree spin after a comebacker by Ozzie Albies struck him in the hamstring, slipped on the grass and made the throw to first for the second out of the fifth. A trainer briefly came out to check on Kershaw, who threw one warmup pitch to prove he was fine.
The Dodgers backed Kershaw with a double play to end the sixth after he plunked pinch-hitter Lane Adams leading off and Acuna Jr. grounded into a fielder’s choice to third.
The Braves’ offense was anemic again.
Other than Acuna’s double and his single in the ninth, they were limited to a two-out single by Inciarte in the fifth. Freddie Freeman was hitless with a strikeout in four at-bats. Nick Markakis went 0 for 3 with a strikeout, and Albies was 0 for 3.
“You can’t blame any one person,” manager Brian Snitker said. “I mean, it’s just our whole lineup is having a hard time.”
With their season on the line, the NL East champion Braves are likely to start RHP Kevin Gausman on Sunday. He came over from Baltimore before the July 31 trade deadline in a six-player deal and was 5-3 with a 2.87 ERA in 10 starts for Atlanta.
The Dodgers are going with rookie RHP Walker Buehler, who was 8-5 with a 2.62 ERA this season. Buehler last pitched on Monday, allowing one hit in 6 2/3 innings and striking out three in the NL West tiebreaker victory over the Rockies.
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