Clayton Kershaw lived up to expectations on Sunday, pitching 6 strong innings, and Andre Ethier hit a walk-off single as the Dodgers avoided the sweep against the Cardinals, 4-3 in 10 innings. They finish their homestand at 4-2 as they get set to hit the road this week.
Kershaw started off the game symbolically with a swinging K of Skip Schumaker, then ran into a little bit of trouble. He walked #2 hitter Brian Barton on 4 straight outside pitches, then gave up an RBI-double to Albert Pujols to go down 1-0. He seemed to settle down nicely after that.
The only other time he ran into trouble would be in the 6th, but you can thank the scorching LA sun for that. Barton hit a lazy pop up just behind 1st base, but James Loney completely lost the ball in the sun and it bounced off his head for a hit. Pujols singled again to put men on 1st and 3rd. Ryan Ludwick hit a grounder to 3rd base, but Blake DeWitt barely got anything on his throw to home and Barton easily scored to tie the game at 2. With 2 on and 1 down, Kershaw retired Troy Glaus and Jason LaRue to end the threat.
Kershaw's final line was 6 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K. Overall, it was a fantastic debut for someone we will be hearing much more from in the future.
As for the offense, they yet again did just enough to get the W. One great scene was Luis Maza hitting his first career home run in the 1st to get the Dodgers on the board, a shot that barely got over the left field fence. He was hitting in the 2-hole, and responded with 2 hits and a sacrifice. Good job. He's currently 7-14 on the year with no K's, so it will be interesting to see if he gets sent back down once Rafael Furcal is ready to play again. I'm not so sure that would be the smart move. Chin-lung Hu continues to disappoint, as he pulled off another 0-4 to drop his average to .188. He's the one that looks completely overmatched at the plate. About the only thing going for him is his glove, as he's committed 1 error in 113 chances. But, with the offense struggling, it's hard to watch him look so helpless at the plate over and over.
Ethier and Russell Martin provided bit at-bats. Martin had 2 RBI's on a double and single hitting in the cleanup spot. Ethier's game-winning hit came with 2 down and a 3-2 count. It's good to see someone come through in a big spot like that. After going 3-5, Ethier's average is up to .299, and he has shown that he should have never taken a back seat nearly as much as he did to Andruw Jones in the beginning of the season. It's good to see his name in the lineup everyday.
Takashi Saito pitched 2 flawless innings for the win, K'ing 5. He came into the month of May with a 2.19 ERA, and it's now down to 1.66. He's only given up 1 run this month (in a non-save situation) and has 5 saves and 2 wins. I think people can stop claiming that he's lost his touch. He looks pretty darn good to me.
It's off to Chicago for an afternoon ballgame today, and Chad Billingsley takes the mound. 4 out of his last 5 starts have been fantastic, and with the team on short rest from a long flight, they'll need big outs from him to stand a chance.