LOS ANGELES (AP) — Merrill Kelly and Clayton Kershaw had their backs to each other in the outfield while they were long-tossing before Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
“He kind of gave me a little acknowledgment and I gave it back,” Kelly said.
Then Arizona went out and clobbered the Los Angeles Dodgers ace in the first inning on the way to an 11-2 victory for Kelly and the Diamondbacks on Saturday night.
Gabriel Moreno’s three-run drive highlighted a six-run first for Arizona, which also got homers from Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Tommy Pham. Kelly used the support to beat the Dodgers for the first time.
“I’m watching our guys beat up on one of the best pitchers that we’ve ever seen in our lives and watching them do it in the first game I’ve ever pitched in the playoffs,” Kelly said.
Making his first career postseason start at age 34, Kelly came in with an 0-11 record and a 5.49 ERA in 16 starts against LA.
“I felt if I gave those games any attention I was going out there behind the eight-ball before I even stepped on the mound,” he said.
Kelly limited the NL West champions to three hits in 6 1/3 innings, the last one leading off the third on Miguel Rojas’ single. He retired 11 in a row during one stretch.
“We just never really had a chance to get to Kelly,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was attacking us and making us put the ball in play and we just couldn’t do it.”
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Monday night in LA.
The loss tied for the fifth-largest postseason defeat in Dodgers’ franchise history. They’ve now lost Game 1 of the NLDS in two of the last three years.
Kershaw staggered through the worst start and shortest of his 16-year career. The three-time Cy Young Award winner got tagged for six runs and recorded just one out in the 100th postseason game at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s just embarrassing really,” Kershaw said. “I just feel like I let everybody down.”
He walked off the mound with his head down. He sat down in the dugout, removed his cap and buried his face in his hands.
“I don’t think anybody in the baseball world was expecting that,” teammate Freddie Freeman said.
Kershaw dropped to 13-13 with a 4.49 ERA in the postseason, compared to 210-92 with a 2.48 ERA in the regular season.
He gave up a leadoff double to Ketel Marte after the ball went off the glove of center fielder James Outman. Corbin Carroll followed with a RBI single, making it 1-0.
Tommy Pham singled to left and Christian Walker doubled off the base of the bullpen gate for a 2-0 lead. Pham finished with four hits.
Moreno came up next and belted a three-run shot to left.
Kershaw retired Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on a grounder to shortstop, needing 26 pitches to get the first out of the inning. He became the first first starting pitcher in MLB postseason history to allow five hits and five runs before recording an out, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Kershaw then walked Thomas. That set up Evan Longoria’s RBI double to left-center, extending Arizona’s lead to 6-0 and leaving the crowd of 51,653 in stunned silence.
Rookie Emmet Sheehan replaced Kershaw and the D-backs promptly tacked on three more runs in the second. Carroll homered to right, Gurriel had a RBI double and Longoria had a sacrifice fly.
Thomas added a solo shot in the seventh and Pham went deep in the eighth for an 11-0 lead.
Arizona rapped out 13 hits. The only D-back who didn’t get on base was Geraldo Perdomo, who went 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
“I just think this team was very focused,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “We talked about what our game plan was going to be, and I watched this group go out and execute it to a T.”
Kershaw’s early exit made it a bullpen game for the Dodgers, who struggled with starting pitching in the regular season. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May were lost for the year with right elbow injuries. Walker Buehler was ruled out from making an early return after Tommy John surgery, and Julio Urías was placed on paid administrative leave last month because of domestic violence allegations.
That left Kershaw as the only starter still standing. But the D-backs ensured he didn’t last long.
Miguel Castro walked Mookie Betts and Freeman back-to-back in the eighth, and they scored on Will Smith’s triple into the right-field corner — the Dodgers’ first hit since the third inning — to trail 11-2.
Betts, Freeman, J.D. Martinez and Max Muncy were the first four players in Dodgers history with 100-plus RBIs in the same season. But Betts, Freeman and Martinez were the only ones who got on base, all via walks. Muncy was hitless in four at-bats with a strikeout.
Arizona is in the postseason for the first time since 2017, when the D-backs were swept by the Dodgers in three games.
“Our guys are hungry,” Lovullo said. “I don’t think they’re feeling a ton of pressure. They just went out there and did what they do best, and the way they prep is what showed up for me.”
The 84-win D-backs were coming off a sweep of the favored Milwaukee Brewers in the Wild Card Series. The Dodgers had been idle since finishing off a 100-win regular season in which they earned their 10th NL West title in 11 years.
Betts turned 31 on Saturday, while Arizona’s Evan Longoria turned 38. It was the fifth time in postseason history that each team had a player compete on his birthday. The other times were 2016, 2011, 1991 and 1920.
The D-backs have homered in 14 consecutive postseason games dating to Game 3 of the 2007 NL Championship Series against Colorado. They’re tied with the Dodgers and Houston Astros for the second-longest streak.
Right-hander Zac Gallen will start Game 2 for the D-backs on Monday against rookie right-hander Bobby Miller of the Dodgers. Gallen, a 17-game winner, gave up two runs and five hits over six innings against Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card Series. Miller won three of his final five regular-season outings.
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