Sunday, April 7, 2013

Kershaw overcomes Dodgers' anemic offense

Five games into the 2013 season, there's two things you can count on from the Dodgers: Clayton Kershaw can barely be hit, and the offense can barely get a hit.

Despite only one run of support, Kershaw still found a way to win with seven innings of shutout ball as the Dodgers beat the Pirates, 1-0.  It's the second straight game the Pirates have been blanked.

Kershaw started the game off very poorly - he gave up a single to Starling Marte.  If I'm Don Mattingly, I'm yanking him right there.  With the Dodgers' offense, they can't possibly afford to have their starting pitcher give up leadoff singles.  Unacceptable.

OK, back to reality.  Marte ran himself out of the inning by trying to advance to third from second on a grounder to short, and was easily tagged out.  Carl Crawford drew a walk leading off his half of the inning, stole second... and stayed right there when A.J. Burnett struck out the side.

The only run of the game came in the third.  With two outs, Crawford again got on base with an infield single.  And once again, he stole second.  Mark Ellis came through with an RBI single to left, and it was 1-0.

With the way Kershaw is pitching right now, one run is all he would need.  He retired 17 straight hitters from innings 1-6, with another single by Marte with two outs in the sixth breaking the streak.

The Dodgers blew a huge opportunity to at least score another run in the sixth.  Adrian Gonzalez singled with one out, followed by a walk to Andre Ethier and single by A.J. Ellis.  That brought up the struggling Luis Cruz and Justin Sellers.  They have a combined zero hits this year.  And guess what?  It stayed that way when Cruz popped up and Sellers grounded into a forceout.  Ugh.

Paco Rodriguez took the ball to start the eighth and got Pedro Alvarez swinging to continue his strong start to the season.  Kenley Jansen got the final two outs.  They bridged the gap to Brandon League, who walked one en route to his second save.

Every start by Kershaw seems to bring the new challenge of coming up with more ways to describe just how awesome he is.  After going seven innings of two-hit ball with nine strikeouts, here I am again with that challenge.  But let's just keep it simple - he's the best in the business right now.  Other teams can have Justin Verlander, Stephen Strasburg, and Felix Hernandez.  I'll take Kershaw.

I'll also take the work of the bullpen, who have not given up a run in five games covering 10 1/3 innings.  Coming into this season, I knew that if the Dodgers had the lead after six innings, they're going to be very hard to beat.  So far, so good on that thought.

The flip side, of course, is the offense.  Wow are they bad right now.  They rank nearly dead last in every category, and can thank their pitching staff for helping to make the Giants and Pirates just as bad or even worse.  It's hard to imagine a team scoring 11 total runs in five games, yet still winning three of them.  I guess they're doing just enough to squeeze out victories.

Maybe Sunday will be the day that Matt Kemp, Gonzalez, Ethier, and the rest of the boys bust out for 10+ runs.  It has to happen at some point, right?  Hyun-Jin Ryu would appreciate it as he looks for his first win.

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