Clayton Kershaw – perhaps the best pitcher of his generation – will take the hill in Game 1 of the World Series on Tuesday. How dominant is Kershaw? He posted a 2.31 ERA this season.
That was his worst ERA since 2012.
What’s the key to hitting Kershaw? CBS Sports Radio asked Rockies centerfielder Charlie Blackmon, who has almost 50 career ABs against the southpaw.
“I feel like you have to do less against him,” the two-time All-Star said in studio on The DA Show. “You can’t try and get too big. You can’t try and hit for extra bases. You just have to see the ball, hit the ball, battle, and try not to strike out. He’s got such good stuff, you can’t give away a strike. I think guys are going to be hacking early. I don’t think they’re going to just let him get ahead with fast balls early in the count. I don’t expect that to be a very successful strategy against him.”
Don’t be surprised if you see a lot of strikeouts in Games 1 and 2. Kershaw has 16 strikeouts in 17 and 1/3 innings this postseason, while Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander have combined for 49 strikeouts in 43.0 innings.
Blackmon faced Verlander in his final start for Detroit and hit a solo homer. He believes the Dodgers will be aggressive when facing the the former MVP and Cy Young winner.
“Personally, I felt like his spinny stuff – his breaking ball, his slider, whatever he chooses to throw – is very good,” Blackmon said. “If he throws it in a good spot, it’s swing-and-miss stuff. So I expect guys to be aggressive to the fast ball early in the count and try to avoid two-strike counts where you might have to deal with both: a really good fast ball or a nasty slider.”
Verlander, 34, was one of the most dominant pitchers in the game for several years before hitting a bit of a wall in 2013-15. That said, he seems to have reinvented himself over the last season or two and is still throwing with good velocity.
“You just never know how long a guy can hold that,” Blackmon said. “That’s God-given that you can throw that hard, and it’s usually just a matter of time before that starts to slow down. To his credit, he’s figured out how to maintain that and even bring it back. And look where he is: pitching in the World Series.”
There will be a lot of heat in the Fall Classic – and not just from pitchers’ arms. When Game 1 begins Tuesday at 8:09 p.m. ET, the temperature in Los Angeles will be around 100.
Will the heat affect the players?
“I think it will,” Blackmon said. “Guys haven’t played in heat. The Astros play indoors. L.A. is generally very comfortable. I think it’s going to affect some guys. I think guys are going to be sweating more than they’re used to sweating. I think the ball will carry a little better. If you see a ball just sneak out, especially early in the game, know that that ball wouldn’t normally get out on an average night. The ball generally carries worse as the game goes on, so I just wonder if that’s not going to really change the tide – (for) at least this one game – if a ball just sneaks out.”