Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Dodgers, pitcher Clayton Kershaw head back to NLCS after sweep of Padres

The Los Angeles Dodgers have punched their ticket back to the National League Championship Series for the fourth time in five years after dispatching the San Diego Padres on Thursday night, 12-3, for a 3-0 series sweep.

>> Subscribe to Sports Spectrum Magazine for more stories where sports and faith connect <<

Although there’s still a ways to go, the Dodgers remain heavy favorites to win the World Series for the first time during this stretch of sustained excellence. Rightfully so, as they are undefeated in the playoffs, they accumulated the best record in all of baseball during the regular season (43-17), and led the league in ERA and regular-season runs scored.

“We obviously feel really confident about our club, [but] we’ve still got a lot of work to do though,” Dodgers outfielder A.J. Pollock told ESPN after the sweep. “We did what we wanted to do, we did what we’re supposed to do. We’re going to celebrate that, but we expected it.”

One reason for L.A.’s dominance has been the performance of their superstar pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. The three-time Cy Young Award winner, eight-time All-Star and 2014 NL MVP amassed a 2.16 ERA and a 0.840 WHIP over 58.1 innings pitched during an abbreviated regular season. It was the 11th time in his 13-year career that he ended up with a sub-3.00 ERA.

Yet Kershaw has received criticism from some for his seeming inability to deliver in the postseason. He’s on track during this postseason run to put to rest that narrative. In his last outing, a Game 2 victory over the Padres, he went six innings and picked up his second win in as many postseason starts.

Through 14 innings of work in this year’s playoffs, Kershaw owns a 1.93 ERA with 19 strikeouts and a 0.71 WHIP. He struck out 13 Milwaukee Brewers and gave up three hits over eight innings in his previous start in the wild-card round.

Kershaw is also an outspoken Christian and has discussed his faith in God throughout his career. When the Dodgers decided not to play their game against the San Francisco Giants in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting in August, he posted a basic but powerful message on Instagram.

“Love God. Love others. Simple as that,” Kershaw wrote.

Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, run a non-profit organization called Kershaw’s Challenge, which is “a faith-based, others-focused organization” whose goal is “to encourage people to use whatever God-given passion or talent they have to make a difference and give back to people in need.”

With his skill as a baseball player, Kershaw has done just that.

“I didn’t do anything to deserve this gift,” Kershaw told FCA Magazine in 2018. “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.”

In 2013, Kershaw shared his story of faith and baseball in a video with Sports Spectrum.

Game 1 of the NLCS between Los Angeles and Atlanta is scheduled for Monday. The Braves are also undefeated in the playoffs. Whether the Dodgers finally return home with a World Series title will rest heavily on the left arm of Clayton Kershaw.

RELATED STORIES:
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw: ‘Love God. Love others. Simple as that.’
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw joins the fight against human trafficking
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw shares his journey of faith and sports
Dodgers pitcher Blake Treinen finds identity in Christ through trials and triumphs
L.A. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is a ‘servant-leader’
Braves 1B Freddie Freeman posting MVP-caliber season after battling COVID-19