Kershaw continues building case as game's best
Dodgers ace becomes fifth pitcher in Division Series history with at least 12 Ks
ATLANTA -- Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw continued to pitch himself into the elite status in Game 1 of the National League Division Series in Atlanta on Thursday. Kershaw struck out 12 batters in seven innings of the Dodgers' 6-1 victory against the Braves at Turner Field.
Kershaw is one of 30 pitchers in postseason history, and one of five in Division Series history, to have at least 12 strikeouts in a game. Bob Gibson has the postseason record of 17 strikeouts in a 4-0 victory against Detroit in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series. Gibson pitched three complete games in that Series -- including beating the Tigers and Mickey Lolich, 4-1, in Game 7 -- and struck out 35 batters in 27 innings.
Kevin Brown is second on the all-time postseason list and holds the Division Series record with 16 strikeouts against Houston in a 2-1 victory for San Diego in Game 1 of the 1998 NL Division Series.
Joining Brown and Kershaw with 12 or more strikeouts in Division Series games were Tim Lincecum, who had 14 for San Francisco vs. Atlanta in Game 1 of the 2010 NLDS, Randy Johnson, who notched 13 for Seattle against Baltimore in Game 4 of the 1997 AL Division Series, and Charlie Nagy, who struck out 12 for Cleveland against Baltimore in Game 4 in the '96 ALDS. Johnson and Nagy's performances came in losses for their teams.
• The Dodgers combined to strike out 15 batters Thursday, one of 22 postseason games in which a team's pitching staff had 15 or more K's, and the ninth time in a nine-inning game. Teams with 15 or more strikeouts in a postseason game are 13-9 overall, and 7-2 in nine-inning games.
The top two strikeout totals were in losing efforts -- Cleveland pitching striking out 23 against Baltimore in a 4-3, 12-inning loss in that Nagy start in 1996, and Baltimore pitchers striking out 21 against Cleveland in 11 1/3 innings of a 2-1, 12-inning loss to the Indians in Game 3 of the 1997 AL Championship Series.
San Diego has the record for strikeouts in a nine-inning postseason game with 17 in Brown's Game 1 victory against the Astros in 1998.
• There have been two hitters who have struck out five times in a postseason game -- pitcher George Pipgras of the Yankees against the Cubs in Game 3 of the Yankees' sweep of Chicago in the 1932 World Series, and outfielder Reggie Sanders of the Reds against the Dodgers in Game 3 of the '94 NLDS, when the Dodgers swept the Reds.
There have been 51 games in which a hitter struck out four times in a postseason game, including Bobby Bonilla, Johnny Damon, Marquis Grissom and Jerry Reuss, who each had a pair of four-strikeout games.
• The career leader for striking out in a postseason is Derek Jeter, who has fanned 135 times. However, he has also played a record 158 postseason games. There have been 20 players who struck out 50 or more times in their postseason careers.
John Smoltz struck out a record 199 batters in his postseason career, 16 more than Andy Pettitte. They are two of the 11 pitchers with at least 100 postseason strikeouts.
• Alfonso Soriano of the Yankees struck out a record 26 times in the 2003 postseason, four more than Pat Burrell with San Francisco in 2010. The Giants set a postseason record in 2010 with 142 strikeouts as a team.
• Texas pitchers struck out a record 150 batters during the 2010 postseason, nine more than the '03 New York Yankees. Curt Schilling set the individual record with 56 strikeouts for Arizona in '01. Johnson also was a member of that '01 D-backs staff and struck out a record 419 total batters that season, with 372 in the regular season and 47 in the postseason. Sandy Koufax ranks second all time with 411 strikeouts in 1965.
Tracy Ringolsby is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.