ATLANTA — The Atlanta Braves haven’t won a postseason series since 2001 and it isn’t hard to see why. It’s a tough task to advance when you never win the first game.
The Braves’ loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League Division Series on Thursday night was their eighth straight in a postseason opener — tying a major league record.
After sweeping Houston in the 2001 NLDS, the Braves got off to a bad start in the NLCS that year against Arizona and the frustration has continued from there. They lost NLDS openers in 2002 (San Francisco), 2003 (Chicago), 2004 (Houston), 2005 (Houston) and 2010 (San Francisco) en route to elimination, and then the NL wild-card game last year to St. Louis.
The loss to the Cardinals, of course, ousted the Braves. The others put them in an early hole, just like they found themselves this year after losing to the Dodgers 6-1.
In the previous six postseason series the Braves did bounce back to win Game 2, but couldn’t go on from there.
Clayton Kershaw’s 12 strikeouts on Thursday night against the Braves were the second-most every for the Dodgers pitcher in the postseason.
Not surprisingly, the record is held by Sandy Koufax, who fanned 15 in Game 1 of the 1963 World Series against the New York Yankees.
Kershaw’s 1.83 ERA was the lowest for a Dodgers pitcher since Koufax’s 1.73 in his final season of 1966 and 25-year-old struck out 232 — the second most of his career.
The 12 strikeouts — 10 on breaking balls — were the fifth most by a left-hander in the postseason and his six strikeouts in row from the fourth into the sixth inning was the most by a Dodger since Tim Belcher fanned seven straight in the 1988 NL Championship Series against the New York Mets.
Kershaw allowed just three singles over seven innings and departed after 124 pitches in his first postseason victory.
Uggla feels blindsided
The choice of Elliot Johnson over Dan Uggla to play second base didn’t work well for the Braves in the NLDS opener. Johnson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts and missed a grounder that was ruled a hit.
A couple of days after being told he wouldn’t be on the NLDS roster, Uggla remained upset with the decision.
“Every negative emotion you can probably have,” he said. “I’m not blind to my numbers. I know what they are. But at the same time I know what I’ve done in my career and I still know what I’m capable of doing. So I was kind of blindsided by it.”
Uggla, who has two more years on his contract at $13 million per season, hit 22 homers, but finished with a .179 average after struggling mightily the final two months of the regular season before and after having laser eye surgery.