Kendrick, a former Dodger, made the final out the last time the Dodgers lost in the division series, to the Mets in 2015. This time he took a star turn, and although Kelly gave up his homer, Kershaw took the blame for creating the tie in the first place.
Summoned to relieve Walker Buehler with two outs, two on and a two-run lead in the seventh, Kershaw fanned Eaton with a slider, the pitch that made him a star. But when he returned for the eighth, the slider deserted him: Rendon pulled a low one for his homer, and Soto drilled a hanger deep into the right field bleachers.
Kershaw crouched on the mound, felled again by postseason misery. For Kershaw in October, the ballpark might as well be a haunted mansion, the mound a bubbling caldron of witch’s brew. He cannot escape his ghosts.
“Everything people say is true right now about the postseason, I understand that,” Kershaw said in the clubhouse later. “Nothing I can do about it right now. It’s a terrible feeling. It really is. But I’m not going to hang my head.”
In 32 career postseason appearances, Kershaw is 9-11 with a 4.43 earned run average. He has had clutch moments, including a save in Washington to seal Game 5 of this round in 2016, and a win in his first World Series start in 2017.
But for a certain Hall of Famer — three Cy Young Awards, a Most Valuable Player Award, a 2.44 regular-season E.R.A. — autumn failure is a maddening tradition.
“Letting down the guys in the clubhouse, that’s the hardest part every year,” Kershaw said. “When you don’t win the last game of the season and you’re to blame for it, it’s not fun.”