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Dodgers return to longtime ace Clayton Kershaw to start Game 1 of NLCS

Many around baseball were surprised when Dodgers manager Dave Roberts elected to start Hyun-Jin Ryu on the mound in Game 1 of the NLDS against Atlanta last week. Longtime ace Clayton Kershaw had started eight of the Dodgers’ previous 10 postseason openers.

But the reasoning came down to rest. If Kershaw had started Game 1, he would have been on four days’ rest. So he took the mound for Game 2 Friday on five days’ rest — and tossed a gem: eight innings, two hits and zero runs allowed, zero walks, three strikeouts.

That marked the longest start of his playoff career, and earned Kershaw the starting nod for Game 1 of the NLCS on Friday in Milwaukee.

A three-time NL Cy Young Award winner, Kershaw has long been one of the game’s most dominant pitchers. But compared to his regular-season numbers, he’s struggled in the postseason. In 25 playoff appearances, he’s 8-7 with a 4.08 ERA, while his career ERA is 2.39.

The 30-year-old went 9-5 in the 2018 regular season, in which he was not selected an All-Star for the first time since 2010. He battled back and arm injuries, and made only 26 starts, but still finished with a 2.73 ERA and 155 strikeouts in 161.1 innings.

And now he’s healthy for the postseason, with one impressive start already under his belt. Kershaw will look to get the Dodgers into the World Series for the second straight year, as they aim to claim their first World Series title since 1988.

Kershaw is also a faithful man of God, who lists Colossians 3:23 in his Twitter bio: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters.”

“I didn’t do anything to deserve this gift,” Kershaw recently told FCA Magazine. “God gave me an ability to throw a baseball. He chose me for a reason, and I want to honor Him with that. You can’t control the talents He gives you, no doubt about that. But you can control the effort you put forth with those talents.”

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