Clayton Kershaw might very well go into the Hall of Fame one day on the strength of his amazing regular-season success — dragging behind him a painful October history he would rather forget.
Another chapter to his playoff woes was added Wednesday night when the three-time Cy Young Award winner squandered a two-run lead with the Los Angeles Dodgers six outs from advancing to a fourth straight NL Championship Series.
Pitching on full rest at home in relief of effective starter Walker Buehler in Game 5 of the Division Series against Washington, Kershaw gave up homers on consecutive pitches to Anthony Rendon and Juan Soto that tied it 3-all in the eighth inning.
The wild-card Nationals won 7-3 after a grand slam in the 10th by former Dodger Howie Kendrick off Joe Kelly. And with that, the stunned Dodgers were sent home for the winter. The Nationals move on to face the St. Louis Cardinals, who rode a record-setting 10-run first inning to a 13-1 victory over the Atlanta Braves in the other NLDS game.
"When you don't win the last game of the season and you're to blame for it, it's not fun," Kershaw said, his eyes red. "The main reason (it hurts) is the group of guys in this clubhouse. It's a terrible feeling."
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The 31-year-old Kershaw has been the heart and soul of the Dodgers almost since the time he arrived in Los Angeles as a highly touted prospect in 2008 at age 20. While his body of work in the regular season (169-74 with a 2.44 ERA) is practically unmatched, he is 9-11 with a 4.43 ERA and 24 home runs allowed in 32 postseason games, 25 starts.
The ace left-hander entered Wednesday with two on in the seventh and struck out Adam Eaton on three pitches to end the inning.
Kershaw, however, never got another out.
"It might linger for a while," he said. "I might not get over it. I don't know. Spring training is going to come and I will have to be ready to pitch and do my job the best I can."
Kershaw also took the loss as a starter in Game 2 at home, when he gave up three runs and six hits in six innings.
"I'm not going to shy away from it," he said. "Everything people say is true right now about the postseason. I understand that. Nothing I can do about it right now. It's a terrible feeling. It really is. I'm not going to hang my head. I will be here next year and try to do the same thing I try to do every single year."