LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw doesn’t spend much time outside of the immediate moment. He is well aware of the narrative that surrounds him — of an elite regular-season pitcher who has struggled in the playoffs — but doesn’t give it much thought. Kershaw is instead consumed by a stringent routine, his focus never wavering from the task in front of him.
But he is not oblivious to the passage of time.
He is 31 now, winding down his 12th season for the Los Angeles Dodgers, with a fastball that now struggles to break 90 mph. His window to capture that elusive World Series championship is only shrinking.
“Every year that you make the postseason, you realize that it’s one less year on your career, one less year that you have a chance to win, so you become more grateful and more appreciative every single time you get a chance to win the World Series,” Kershaw, who will start Game 2 of the National League Division Series on Friday night against the Washington Nationals, said Thursday in a news conference.
“Who knows how long I’m going to get to play this game, and who knows how long I’m going to get to play here? It’s a special thing, to get to go to the postseason seven years in a row and nine years out of however many years I’ve played, and realize that you don’t get this opportunity often to try to win 11 games. Grateful, but also, with each passing year, maybe a little more urgency, for sure.”
Kershaw started the opening game of the Dodgers’ postseason every year from 2014 to 2017, but he has rescinded the honor each of the past two seasons, to Hyun-Jin Ryu in 2018 and to Walker Buehler in 2019. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said part of the reason for starting Kershaw in Game 2 was so that he could be available out of the bullpen in a potential Game 5, a task Kershaw is more familiar with than other members of the rotation.
Even without overpowering stuff, Kershaw managed 16 wins, a 3.03 ERA and nearly 10 strikeouts per nine innings this season. He remains a vital cog on a Dodgers team that won a franchise-record 106 games and has a legitimate chance to break a 31-year title drought — while joining the 1923 New York Yankees as the only clubs to lose back-to-back World Series and return to win it the third year.
Kershaw had no interest in comparing this year’s team to any others throughout his career, and he doesn’t believe the disappointment of the past two years has provided added pressure.
“There’s just the pressure to win the World Series,” he said. “That’s what the Dodgers means. We expect to win the World Series every single year, regardless of what’s happened in years past. This season’s no different with that.”