(Reuters) - A dominant pitching performance by Clayton Kershaw paved the way for the Los Angeles Dodgers to beat the Atlanta Braves 6-1 in game one of their National League Division Series on Thursday.
Kershaw, whose 1.83 ERA during the regular season was the best in the majors by a starting pitcher in more than a decade, bamboozled Atlanta's usually powerful batting line-up.
Despite taking a while to find the zone, Kershaw allowed just one run on three hits in seven innings to give his side a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.
He struck out six successive batters at one point and finished with 12 strikeouts in 124 pitches, the third highest number of strikeouts by a Dodger in post-season play.
"It might be the best (performance), just because it's my first post-season win," Kershaw told reporters. "This one definitely has special meaning to me for sure."
Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly said it was common for Kershaw to improve during the course of a game.
"Hes the best pitcher in the game. We all know it," added Kershaw's team-mate Adrian Gonzales. "It's amazing the things he can do out there."
Gonzales played his part in the Dodgers' win, slugging a two-out, two-run home run over centerfield in the top of the third inning to give his team a 4-0 lead.
The Braves managed just five hits and struck out 15 times, looking a pale shadow of the team who had an impressive 56-25 home record during the regular season.
Atlanta's starting pitcher Kris Medlen lasted just four innings in his second post-season game, giving up nine hits and five runs.
It was a total team effort by the Dodgers, as seven players managed at least one hit to give Mattingly his first post-season victory as a major leagues manager.
Game Two will be in Atlanta on Friday.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)