Kershaw, regular-season star, savors postseason success

Oct 20, 2017 - 5:34 AM CHICAGO -- Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw flashed a big grin and jokingly pretended to jump up from his chair upon learning that he would start Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday night.

"I'm Game 1?" Kershaw said. "Well, that means I'm working out tomorrow, so we'll see you guys at Dodger Stadium."

The line drew a laugh, and Kershaw remained in his seat for a few more minutes to complete his interview. However, the southpaw turned serious as he reflected on the magnitude of the moment for himself and his team.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to the World Series for the first time since 1988 after an 11-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday night in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series. Kershaw earned the series-clinching victory as he limited the Cubs to one run on three hits in six innings.

"When you're a kid, you just hope you make it to the big leagues," Kershaw said. "So to get to go say you're going to play in the World Series, it's an incredibly special moment. Up there with getting married and having kids, it's right up there with one of the best days of my life."

At 29 years old, Kershaw already is in his 10th major league season. His collection of regular-season awards would make most starting pitchers twitch with jealousy. He has earned one NL Most Valuable Player award (2014), three NL Cy Young Awards (2011, 2013, 2014), five league ERA titles and seven All-Star selections.

The Dallas native boasts a career record of 144-64 with a 2.36 ERA. He has 2,120 strikeouts in 1,935 innings.

Yet the southpaw's dominance in the regular season often failed to carry over into the playoffs. Some critics scoffed as Kershaw brought a 5-7 postseason career record with a 4.57 ERA into Thursday's matchup.

Now, finally, Kershaw has an opportunity to change his October narrative.

"He's done everything he can individually on the baseball field," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. "But the one thing that he's missing is a championship, so he's very emotional tonight. He's earned that. It's only fitting that he started tonight's game."

Justin Turner and Chris Taylor shared NLCS Most Valuable Player honors for their production at the plate against the Cubs. But both players were quick to direct praise to Kershaw, the face of the franchise and one of the biggest reasons for Los Angeles' 104-win season that secured home-field advantage for the Fall Classic.

"It's easy to say that the most impressive thing is when he takes the ball every fifth day," Turner said. "But for me, the more impressive thing is watching him go about his business on the four other days, and the work that he puts in and the routine and the tireless effort and training and amount of stuff that goes into his day, each and every day, to lead up to that start.

"It's something that I've never seen out of anyone in my entire life."

Kershaw has put in the work throughout the past decade with one goal in mind.

Without a World Series appearance, would Kershaw always have felt a void in his career?

"You know, that's a tough question," Kershaw said. "I think at the end of the day, yeah.

"Winning the World Series is really all that we play this game for. All the individual stuff is great, but at the end of the day, I just want to win a World Series. If we win, I might retire, I might just call it a career. It's a special thing, and I know that I'm not taking it for granted."

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