Christian Yelich enters Game 1 of tonight’s National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers with a career .529 batting average (9-for-17, 2 HR, 3 RBI, 1.497 OPS) against Clayton Kershaw, including four hits in six plate appearances this season.
On Thursday, both Yelich and Kershaw spent time talking about their respective seasons and face-to-face challenges. Of course, both were guarded in their responses.
“Really good hitter,” said Kershaw. “I don’t know what he’s changed since the last time I faced him or anything, but he’s gotten some hits off me for sure, and try not to let him do that tomorrow.”
When asked about his success against Kershaw, Yelich trotted our a string of compliments:
“It’s a battle. You enjoy that as a player, going up against the best and see how you stack up. It’s what makes this time of the year really fun. He doesn’t make a whole lot of mistakes. You’re not going to get a whole lot of opportunities, but when you do, you gotta capitalize on them … Sometimes you don’t get anything to hit. He’s just going to strike you out.”
Yelich has hit most every team, and every pitcher, really well this season. He is right at the top of the league MVP conversation, compiling career-high offensive numbers (.326 BA, 36 HR, 110 RBI, .402 OBP, .598 SLG and 1.000 OPS).
Yelich’s postseason run is reminiscent of Daniel Murphy’s 2015 performance against the Dodgers and Chicago Cubs. Over the nine-game period Murphy batted .421 (16-for-38) with seven home runs and 11 RBI (.436 OPB/1.026 SLG/1.462 OPS). He cooled off significantly against the Kansas City Royals in the World Series (.150 BA/0 HR/0 RBI).
“But the great thing about our game is like it’s ‘What’s next?'” said Craig Counsell. “What are you going to do based off that last matchup? What are you going to do off my success against you or your success against me? And I think that’s the cool part about watching Kershaw vs. Yelich. It’s to see what happens next.”