Clayton Kershaw needed a jolt after a horrific performance his last outing in Arizona, one that saw him fail to get out of the second inning. The Dodgers also needed a jolt after a sloppy game last night in New York.
Mission accomplished on both fronts.
Kershaw showed why he's the reigning Cy Young Award winner, tossing six scoreless innings and striking out nine. He got all the support needed on an RBI single from Yasiel Puig in the first, and a solo home run from Carl Crawford in the second.
I don't think anybody expected Kershaw to get hammered again, but there was some concern that his Arizona debacle would linger into this start. Instead, he used a wicked slider to keep the Phillies off balance, and was able to wiggle out of two out and none on in both the fourth and sixth.
I'm nitpicking here, but even with the great box score, that still wasn't the best he can offer. He did walk three guys as he still appears to be searching for better fastball command. He had it for the most part in this one, but was around the strike zone a bit too much with the hard stuff. Still, when the heat was on, he rose up and pitched even better.
Not even a 43 minute rain delay could deny Kershaw on this night. The fear when the rain started pounding the ground in the fourth was that he'd get an early exit again, and the overworked and unproductive bullpen would have to carry the load. Thankfully the delay was short, and Kershaw went right back to work.
Now that he's gotten this start out of the way, he should be full speed ahead for his next start on Wednesday against the Reds at home. They're a team that, like the Dodgers, are stuck in the middle of their division trying to play more consistent baseball.
Other thoughts from the game:
* The bullpen was in charge of protecting a three-run lead for three innings, and did just that. Brandon League got a shot to start the seventh, and a single, walk, and bad throw by himself meant he got the hook before even getting an out. J.P. Howell did an outstanding job in pitching out of it, as did Brian Wilson and Kenley Jansen right after that with two flawless innings combined.
* Speaking of League, it probably wasn't the best timing by me to write about how I believe League should pitch in setup in the eighth. Boy did he look bad, which is probably why he's only useful in non-pressure situations.
* The legend of Puig continues to grow, as he had another awesome night at the plate: 3-for-3, two walks, and an RBI single. He's now up to .343 with 38 RBIs this season. And if you haven't checked out his sensational catch in New York from last night, look it up. He's having an amazing year so far, and only looks to be getting better.
* As Orel Hershiser talked about before and during the game, tonight's lineup was an obvious message by Don Mattingly at getting his best defenders on the field. So, Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez rested, while Andre Ethier and the debuting Erisbel Arruebarruena started in center and at short, respectively. It definitely worked, as they played a clean game, with the only error being charged to League in the seventh.
* Let's see more of Ethier in center from here on out. I know Kemp will still get his starts, but he's proven to be a step behind anymore. Ethier is much better at getting good jumps on fly balls, and even had two hits tonight. Like I said earlier today, the days of Kemp being the everyday center fielder need to come to an end. Enough is enough.
* Arruebarruena had a weird debut to say the least. He struck out three times and never once had a ball hit to him at short. That's almost hard to believe that nobody even accidentally grounded to short, but it's true. He looks to have a long, long way to go at the plate, though. He didn't stand a chance on the breaking stuff.
* As was also pointed out during the game, I don't remember ever seeing such a small Philly crowd, and that was even before the rain delay. They look like they've already thrown in the towel on this season.
Dan Haren will look for his sixth win on Saturday. His ERA has gone up in each of his last four starts, and was hit around in Arizona last Sunday. Still, he has a 3.18 ERA in nine starts, something the Dodgers will gladly take.