So much for home field advantage. The visiting Dodgers got over their October jitters quickly, played inspired baseball, and put away the bumbling Braves with relative ease, winning 6-1 Thursday night at Turner Field behind Clayton Kershaw.
The result is a 1-0 lead in the National League Division Series, with Los Angeles leading Atlanta in the confidence department by more than can be measured in sabermetrics, old fashioned stats, or even in Roman numerals.
We're so used to seeing Kershaw mow down opponents like a beat writer swatting away grasshoppers in a Georgia press box (thanks to Tony Jackson of DodgerScribe.com for the pre-game photo above) that when he struggles a smidge, we're almost aghast with what's unfolding before us.
In a performance a bit reminiscent of Fernando Valenzuela's Game 3 win in the 1981 World Series, Kershaw pitched out of trouble a couple of times and walked three men, but managed to go seven strong innings, striking out 12, while allowing one run on three hits. He made 124 pitches (Valenzuela made 147 in his complete game Series win, allowing four runs on nine hits, with seven walks and six Ks).
But Kersh did what he had to and then some, at one point striking out six consecutive Braves batters, before giving the ball to Brian Wilson, who pitched a scoreless eighth inning. Kenley Jansen shook off some rust in a non-save situation, managing a hit, a walk and 25 pitches without allowing a run in the ninth.
The Dodgers got the big hits off loser Kris Medlen — a double from A.J. Ellis in the second inning, a two-run homer courtesy of Adrian Gonzalez in the third, and an RBI single by Mark Ellis in the fourth, as Los Angeles took a 5-0 lead.
Meanwhile, Evan Gattis fell all over himself in left field and on the basepaths, and it was the home team, playing before 7075 fans dressed as empty seats, that looked like nervous wrecks.
So L.A., with its split assured, goes for the near-knockout blow and a 2-zip series lead tomorrow, with so-called Dodger starter 1-A Zack Greinke facing off against Atlanta left-hander Mike Minor at 3:07 p.m. PDT, once again on TBS from Turner Field.
And we'll see if the Braves continue to do what the Braves almost always seem to do — lose in the first round of whatever playoff series they find themselves in — like in 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2010 and 2012, five of those times with home field advantage.