LOS ANGELES — Starting pitchers Merrill Kelly and Clayton Kershaw had their backs to each other in the outfield while they were long-tossing before Game 1 of the NL Division Series.
“He kind of gave me a little acknowledgment and I gave it back,” Kelly said.
Then Arizona went out and clobbered the Los Angeles Dodgers ace in the first inning on the way to an 11-2 victory for Kelly and the Diamondbacks on Saturday night.
Gabriel Moreno’s three-run drive highlighted a six-run first for Arizona, which also got homers from Corbin Carroll, Alek Thomas and Tommy Pham. Kelly used the support to beat the Dodgers for the first time.
“I’m watching our guys beat up on one of the best pitchers that we’ve ever seen in our lives and watching them do it in the first game I’ve ever pitched in the playoffs,” Kelly said.
Making his first career postseason start at age 34, Kelly came in with an 0-11 record and a 5.49 ERA in 16 starts against LA.
“I felt if I gave those games any attention I was going out there behind the eight-ball before I even stepped on the mound,” he said.
Kelly limited the NL West champions to three hits in 6 1/3 innings, the last one leading off the third on Miguel Rojas’ single. He retired 11 in a row during one stretch.
“We just never really had a chance to get to Kelly,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “He was attacking us and making us put the ball in play and we just couldn’t do it.”
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Monday night in LA.
The loss tied for the fifth-largest postseason defeat in Dodgers’ franchise history. They’ve now lost Game 1 of the NLDS in two of the last three years.
Kershaw staggered through the worst start and shortest of his 16-year career. The three-time Cy Young Award winner got tagged for six runs and recorded just one out in the 100th postseason game at Dodger Stadium.
“It’s just embarrassing really,” Kershaw said. “I just feel like I let everybody down.”
He walked off the mound with his head down. He sat down in the dugout, removed his cap and buried his face in his hands.
“I don’t think anybody in the baseball world was expecting that,” teammate Freddie Freeman said.
Kershaw dropped to 13-13 with a 4.49 ERA in the postseason, compared to 210-92 with a 2.48 ERA in the regular season.
Kershaw’s early exit made it a bullpen game for the Dodgers, who struggled with starting pitching in the regular season. Tony Gonsolin and Dustin May were lost for the year with right elbow injuries. Walker Buehler was ruled out from making an early return after Tommy John surgery, and Julio Urías was placed on paid administrative leave last month because of domestic violence allegations.
That left Kershaw as the only starter still standing. But the D-backs ensured he didn’t last long.
Miguel Castro walked Mookie Betts and Freeman back-to-back in the eighth, and they scored on Will Smith’s triple into the right-field corner — the Dodgers’ first hit since the third inning — to trail 11-2.
Betts, Freeman, J.D. Martinez, and Max Muncy were the first four players in Dodgers history with 100-plus RBIs in the same season. But Betts, Freeman, and Martinez were the only ones who got on base, all via walks. Muncy was hitless in four at-bats with a strikeout.
Arizona is in the postseason for the first time since 2017, when the D-backs were swept by the Dodgers in three games.
“Our guys are hungry,” Lovullo said. “I don’t think they’re feeling a ton of pressure. They just went out there and did what they do best, and the way they prep is what showed up for me.”