Sports Spectrum Magazine Summer 2021

Clayton Kershaw's strong postseason helps Dodgers get over World Series hump

Clayton Kershaw is a three-time Cy Young Award winner, eight-time All-Star, a league MVP and a future Hall of Famer. He’s now also a World Series champion.

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The Los Angeles Dodgers took down the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday night, 3-1, to win the 2020 World Series, four games to two. It gives the Dodgers their first championship since 1988, and seventh as a franchise (which ranks sixth in MLB history).

Kershaw watched Game 6 from the bullpen, ready to serve as an emergency relief pitcher if needed. But he never took off his jacket, as his work in this series was put in during Games 1 and 5, for which he earned wins in both. He pitched six strong innings in Game 1, giving up just one run on two hits and striking out eight as the Dodgers collected an 8-3 victory. He went 5.2 innings in Game 5, allowing two runs on five hits and striking out six as L.A. won 4-2.

Kershaw spoke with the FOX Sports crew Tuesday night to describe the feeling of being a champion.

“I feel pretty good,” Kershaw said on the broadcast with a big smile. “It’s hard to describe. You know, you work so hard. We’ve been to the postseason, I’ve been to the postseason and lost every single [time]. And now, to look up — I wish it were Dodger Stadium, but it feels like it right now with all these Dodgers fans around. To get to see how happy these fans are, they’ve been waiting a long time too. I just have a lot of emotions right now. It’s just a special feeling, man. World Series champs! They can’t take that away.”

Kershaw’s and the Dodgers’ struggles in the postseason have been well documented. But Kershaw’s also been pretty good in the playoffs. During Game 5, he became the all-time leader in postseason strikeouts, with 207 in 189 innings to move ahead of Justin Verlander (205 in 187.2 innings). He’s now 13-12 all time in postseason play. Kershaw posted a 2.31 ERA in this World Series, and won two games in a postseason series for the first time.

Because Kershaw’s often been dogged for his postseason play, his teammates were thrilled that he finally won a championship. Manager Dave Roberts told Kershaw how happy he was for him when they embraced on the field. Outfielder Cody Bellinger told FOX after the game, “This couldn’t happen to a better person, a better teammate.”

“Hearing that they’re proud of you and they’re so happy for you for winning a World Series, there’s not a higher compliment when somebody says they’re proud of you — one of your peers that’s in it every day with you, sees what you to do get ready to pitch or get ready to play,” Kershaw told FOX. “So I’m so happy to be a part of it. I’m so happy to be on this team. It’s a special group of guys. It really is. It’s really a special group of guys.

“And we won a World Series, I can’t believe it! It feels good to say. Let me keep saying it a few more times.”

Kershaw’s love for his teammates was evident August 26 when the Dodgers decided not to play their game against the San Francisco Giants in the wake of the Jacob Blake shooting. Kershaw posted a basic but powerful message on Instagram summing up Jesus’ words in Mark 12:30-31.

“Love God. Love others. Simple as that,” Kershaw wrote. “Tonight, my teammates and I decided not to play. Tonight is about taking a stand right where I need to be — next to my teammate and coaches. Love God, love my teammates. Baseball comes after that.”

Kershaw and his wife, Ellen, have long been outspoken followers of Christ. They started a “faith-based, others-focused” non-profit organization called Kershaw’s Challenge, and out of that have funded an orphanage in Zambia called Hope’s Home. The couple detailed the launch of those projects with The Increase in 2013. In the interview, Kershaw also relayed another “simple” message.

“Jesus saved us, and Jesus is the only answer,” he said. “This man-God took us and saved us, and that’s it. He’s our Savior, and everything is for Him, everything good in this world comes from Him. You can believe that or you don’t, but that’s it.”

Believe it or not, Kershaw is a world champion.

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