NEW YORK – Clayton Kershaw finally came through in October, just in time to save the Los Angeles Dodgers from another early exit at least for now.
Pitching on short rest with the season on the line, Kershaw shut down the New York Mets for seven innings and Justin Turner delivered a key hit against his former team that sent the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory Tuesday night and forced the NL Division Series to a deciding Game 5.
The series shifts back to Los Angeles on Thursday night, with fellow Dodgers ace Zack Greinke scheduled to start against Jacob deGrom. The winner hosts the wild-card Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series opener Saturday.
"Definitely happy to be going back home," Kershaw said. "They like us a little better there."
With Chase Utley on the bench again, the Dodgers handed hometown Mets rookie Steven Matz his first loss in the major leagues.
Kershaw's one-out single led to a three-run third. Adrian Gonzalez blooped an RBI single and Turner added a two-run double, providing enough support for the lefthanded ace.
The reigning NL MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner stopped a five-start losing streak in the playoffs — the longest in Dodgers history.
"I'm actually really happy for him. I mean, this kid is tremendous. Everything that you're supposed to be, he is," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "This guy's an animal, the way he works, represents us, the game of baseball, himself. I mean, he's really a credit to the game."
After dropping the series opener 3-1 to deGrom, Kershaw was 1-6 with a 4.99 ERA in 12 career postseason games, including nine starts. He lost elimination games each of the past two years.
But this time, Kershaw was just as dominant as he normally is during the regular season.
"There's no curse or anything," he said. "Just got to get through the seventh."
He struck out eight, walked one and yielded only three hits — one Daniel Murphy's homer in the fourth — quieting a revved-up crowd at Citi Field.