Zylbert: Can Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez Put Postseason Demons Behind Them?

Zylbert: Can Clayton Kershaw, Gio Gonzalez Put Postseason Demons Behind Them? article feature image

Credit: USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Clayton Kershaw (22), Gio Gonzalez (47).

Betting odds: Los Angeles Dodgers at Milwaukee Brewers (NLCS Game 1)

  • Over/Under: 7.5
  • First Pitch: 8:09 p.m. ET (FS1)
  • Probable Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw (9-5, 2.73 ERA) vs. Gio Gonzalez (10-11, 4.21 ERA)

Zylbert’s 2018 MLB Over/Under Betting Record
Regular Season: 102-73-4, +21.35 units
Postseason: 3-4-1, -1.75 units
Last Result: Red Sox-Yankees Over 9, Porcello vs. Sabathia (loss)

*Each bet graded as if it were to win 1 unit

In their third straight trip to the National League Championship Series, the Dodgers will be seeking a second consecutive berth in the World Series. They just need to go through the red-hot Brewers in this best-of-seven matchup to accomplish that goal.

That effort begins tonight in Game 1 with Kershaw on the mound, a name that used to elicit a wide range of emotions whenever he would suit up for a postseason start.

How will he handle his latest October test?

First of all, I never bought into the notion that Kershaw couldn’t succeed in the postseason. Sure, he’s bombed in a few outings, but his lack of success in the past involved a combination of tough luck and poor bullpen work.

Besides, Kershaw has risen above all of that to provide quality work more times than not in October.

For instance, the Dodgers won four of his six postseason starts last year, and who could forget the 2016 playoffs when Kershaw was heroically summoned out of the bullpen in a challenging spot to record a series-winning save in an elimination game opposite the Nationals?

The 11-year veteran is off to a resounding start this postseason after overwhelming Atlanta with eight shutout innings in the NLDS. In Game 2, Kershaw scattered a mere two baserunners — with neither reaching via walk.

Sure, Kershaw’s strikeouts have been down since he returned from injury in September, but he’s still been near his usual high level, which explains how he went 3-0 in his six starts last month.

Kershaw has typically been very good against the Brewers throughout his career — his last eight outings against Milwaukee have been quality starts — but he’s been particularly effective at Miller Park.

In seven career starts in Milwaukee, he’s 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA, 0.76 WHIP and .196 batting average against.

He’s been especially dominant at Miller Park the last two seasons, allowing only two earned runs total in his two outings there, spanning 13 innings, while fanning 19 batters.

He was so good in his start at Miller Park last year that he (along with counterpart Jimmy Nelson) helped get that game into the record books: most strikeouts by both teams combined in an NL game (42).

The other starter in this series opener, Gonzalez, is pretty much in the same boat as Kershaw when it comes to his postseason resumé. After all, the former Washington National has logged a very unspectacular 4.78 ERA and 1.48 WHIP in six career October outings.

However, this is a new Gonzalez we’re looking at, one who seemingly already underwent a transformation the second he was dealt to the Brewers before the trade deadline.

Since landing with his new club, the veteran southpaw has been nothing short of sensational. He’s made five starts with Milwaukee, going 3-0 with a 2.13 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and .157 (!) BAA. That’s a huge improvement from the less-than-desirable production he contributed while still in a Nationals uniform.

Oh, and all of that has come with one batterymate. That would be Manny Piña, who is behind the plate despite an impressive showing from Erik Kratz in the NLDS.

There might be some concern regarding the fact that Gonzalez didn’t pitch at all in the three-game NLDS sweep.

However, you should be comforted in knowing that the 33-year-old actually excels when he’s starting on six days or more of rest.

Throughout his career, Gonzalez has gone in 19-12 with a 3.49 ERA in such scenarios. He has also punched out 9.05 K/9 in those starts, topping the 8.46 K/9 he’s posted on his normal four days’ rest.

With Gonzalez stressing how grateful he is for this opportunity, I believe that’s a strong sign he’ll embrace the pressure of this huge Game 1 affair rather than be scared.

Make sure you get your under bet in right away, as 7.5 is the highest number we’ll get.

Play: UNDER 7.5 (-115)