Yelich vs. Kershaw a matchup made in baseball heaven

Updated: October 12, 2018

8:15 AM ET

MILWAUKEE — If a best-of-seven playoff series can have a tone-setting moment in the first inning of Game 1, then make sure you’re watching Friday night when all-world pitcher Clayton Kershaw takes on National League MVP favorite Christian Yelich. It’ll be the first marquee matchup of the NL Championship Series between the Milwaukee Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers.

“You enjoy that as a player, going up against the best,” Yelich said Thursday afternoon. “Just try and see how you stack up. You enjoy competing, and it seems like he really enjoys competing, and that’s what it’s all about.”

Yelich might be enjoying it more than Kershaw so far this year as he was 4-for-6 with two home runs off Kershaw in the regular season. Those are confidence-building moments, even for one of the hottest hitters in the game. Kershaw understands he might have to go back to the drawing board.

“I’m about to go look right now,” Kershaw said not long after Yelich spoke Thursday. “So I don’t know what he’s changed since the last time I faced him or anything like that. But yeah, he’s gotten some hits off me for sure, and [I’ll] try not to let him do that [Friday].”

Yelich hit almost everything and everyone under the sun in the second half, with his one weakness coming in the lower half of the strike zone, especially the outside portion. He produced just a .582 OPS on those pitches. Kershaw tried to get him out there, but Yelich laid off low fastballs and teed off on Kershaw’s slider, which caught more of the zone than the Dodgers ace may have wanted. Yelich was 3-for-3 with a home run and double on at-bats ending with a Kershaw slider. The Brewers right fielder was asked what the secret of getting to Kershaw was.

“A lot of luck,” he said with a smile. “He’s one of the best pitchers in the game. Tough at-bat every time you face him. It’s a battle.”

“I think when you’re facing guys like that, I don’t think you think you ever have them figured out,” Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. “It’s two great players going up against each other. It’s the cat-and-mouse game. Is the success he had in the past, is he going to do the same thing, is he going to do something different? Every player is very well aware of the history against the pitcher on the mound or the hitter in the box. They’re aware of it. They’ve scouted it. They’ve looked at it.

“But the great thing about our game is like it’s ‘What’s next?’ 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 versus Yelich, is to see what happens next.”

We’ll find out what’s next as the two are bound to face off in several big moments over the next week. Will Kershaw go with his fastball more in order to get Yelich to chase where he does his least damage? Or is, simply, a better-thrown slider the answer? Even Yelich is excited to see how it plays out.

“It’s what it’s all about,” Yelich said. “It’s what makes this time of the year really fun. It’s what you play for as a player, and like I said, he’s a great player, great pitcher. He’s had an unbelievable career, and we know it’s going to be a battle.”

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