Sunday, May 10, 2015

Kershaw still scuffling, but the bats pick him up

Clayton Kershaw very badly wants a couple of things: his 100th win, and the pinpoint accuracy that earned him three Cy Young Awards at such a young age.

He didn't get either one today, but thanks to a big offensive display, the Dodgers still got the victory over the Rockies 9-5.  With 30 games already being played, the Dodgers are 20-10 and in first place of the NL West.  Considering all of their injuries and that Kershaw has a 4.26 ERA, I think they'll gladly take that.

There was plenty of good about the Dodgers fighting back from a 5-2 hole to cruise to a victory, but let's focus on Kershaw first.  This was his seventh start of the season on Sunday, which came with an extra day of rest thanks to Saturday's rain out/snow out.  Things started off normally, as he got through three innings with ease, allowing no runs on one hit.

Then the fourth inning came, and the combination of some bad luck and bad location really did him in.  It all started on a walk to DJ LeMahieu, and things fell apart from there.  A Tulo single soon led to RBI singles from Wilin Rosario and Nick Hundley, making it 2-2.  The unlucky part came when Drew Stubbs hit a nubber in front of the plate in which A.J. Ellis could do nothing with, loading the bases.

Another bit of unlucky came next, as Rafael Ynoa slowly grounded out to first, allowing the run to score.  Then the icing on the cake came when Jorge De La Rosa stepped to the plate.  As if the inning wasn't already frustrating enough, he hit a 2-2 pitch to center to score two, and just like that, Kershaw was down 5-2.

Granted, Kershaw wasn't hit all over the place, which is still easy to do in Coors Field.  But he also was his own worst enemy too many times with four walks, and generally having very poor location with his fastball.  It's what's been killing him all this season - not having control with the hard stuff.  He got through 5 2/3, but needed 110 pitches to do it.  Hardly the effective guy we're used to.

Look, Kershaw has built such a high standard for himself, anytime he gives up multiple runs in a game, it's alarming.  But what cannot be argued is the problem he's having with surrendering leads.  It happened on Opening Day against the Padres.  It happened last start in Milwaukee.  And it happened again today.

And I doubt I have to remind everyone how it happened against the Cardinals last October.

Maybe this will end up being a good thing for him, as for the first time in his career, he's not delivering with the consistency we're so used to seeing.  People will start to think the Cardinals really messed him up, and maybe even think he's hurt.  Just when all the doubters are being loud and proud, he can start to dominate again.  At least we hope.

Kershaw's next start is scheduled to be Friday night at home against these same Rockies.  If he can get into a groove and get win #100, then maybe he'll start cruising from there.  We shall see.

(On a side note, be careful referring to Kershaw on Twitter as having a "poor outing."  Even though it was true, there was some pure venom being spewed my way.  Some even threatened to unfollow me!  I appreciate people defending Kershaw, but.... Good Lord, lighten up!)

Other thoughts from the game:

* An early MVP candidate has to be Adrian Gonzalez, who delivered once again in a huge way.  Right after Kershaw lost control, A-Gon smacked a bases clearing double, finishing with two doubles and four RBIs.  He ranks in the top three in the NL in the following categories: average, home runs, RBIs, runs, slugging %, and OPS.  Simply put, he's been THE MAN this year.

* Justin Turner had the winning hit, lifting a two-run homer to center in the eighth to go up 7-5.  That was as a pinch-hitter, proving his versatility.  He even threw in a nice putout when he stayed in at third.  Who would've thought he'd mean so much to this team when he signed before last season?

* The bullpen?  Terrific, as usual.  Pedro Baez bailed Kershaw out of the sixth by striking out Tulo with the bases loaded and two down.  He then pitched another scoreless inning.  Lefty Adam Liberatore got the next four outs, and Yimi Garcia the final two, both on strikeouts.  They all throw very hard and locate really well.  I can't wait to see them paired up with Kenley Jansen soon.  The bullpen will be even deadlier.

The Dodgers will gladly get out of cold and snowy Colorado for LA, as they begin a three-game set with the Marlins on Monday.  Zack Greinke will put his perfect 5-0 record on the line in the first game.

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