ATLANTA — Clayton Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers opened the playoffs looking intent on ending that quarter-century drought since their last World Series championship.
For the Atlanta Braves, another dose of October misery.
Kershaw struck out 12 during seven dominant innings, Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run homer and the Dodgers beat the bumbling Braves 6-1 in Game 1 of the NL Division Series on Thursday night.
The big-money Dodgers haven’t won a Series title since 1988 — by far their longest dry spell since the franchise moved from Brooklyn to Southern California in 1958.
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In an interesting twist, Kershaw was born just a few months before that most recent title. If the left-hander keeps pitching the way he did against Atlanta, the Dodgers might have a chance to go all the way again.
“He’s the best pitcher in baseball,” Gonzalez said, “and he showed it tonight.”
Game 2 in the best-of-five series is Friday night in Atlanta, with Zack Greinke (15-4) starting for the Dodgers against Mike Minor (13-9).
Kershaw, who had a 1.83 earned-run average during the regular season, limited the Braves to Chris Johnson’s run-scoring single with two outs in the fourth. That just seemed to make the pitcher mad — he struck out Andrelton Simmons to end Atlanta’s only serious threat, and the next five Braves hitters for good measure.
Appropriately, Kershaw finished up by striking out the side in the seventh, matching his season high for K’s. He allowed just three hits.
“He turned it up the next three or four innings and we didn’t really get good swings at him,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Atlanta struck out 15 times in all.
Even though slugger Matt Kemp is out for the playoffs and Andre Ethier is hobbling with an injured ankle, the Dodgers had no trouble piling up runs against Kris Medlen and the Braves.
The Atlanta starter, who came into the playoffs riding a five-game winning streak, gave up nine hits and five runs in four-plus innings.
ST. LOUIS — Carlos Beltran’s three-run homer sparked a seven-run third inning and St. Louis got seven stingy innings from Adam Wainwright, delivering a reality jolt to the Pittsburgh Pirates with a 9-1 rout in their NLDS opener.
The first eight Cardinals reached safely in the third to chase A.J. Burnett, saddling the right-hander with the second-shortest outing of his career and putting Game 1 out of reach early. A sellout crowd roared early and then settled in for an easy victory.
“To be able to get out on a good first step and play well today I think is big for our guys confidence-wise,” St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. “Gives us an opportunity to just take some momentum, and momentum is big right now when you talk about a five-game series.”
Lance Lynn (15-10) faces Pirates rookie Gerrit Cole (10-7) in Game 2 on Friday.
The Pirates ended a 21-year postseason drought and entered the best-of-five series with apparent momentum after beating Cincinnati in the wild-card game Tuesday. They never threatened to rally against the Cardinals’ ace and finished with only four hits.
Pittsburgh also was sloppy in the field, committing three errors.
Wainwright remained unbeaten in the postseason, going to 3-0 with a 2.27 ERA in 14 games, five of them starts. He allowed a run on three hits in seven innings, striking out nine without a walk. The only damage came on a homer by Pedro Alvarez to start the fifth.