When Clayton Kershaw takes the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers, one can almost pencil in a win for them – even if their offense is struggling like has been the case of late.
In his second start of the season, Kershaw is off to a sensational start. After pitching a two-hit, complete game shutout in his season debut against the defending world champion San Francisco Giants, Kershaw followed that gem up with another stellar showing at Blue Heaven on Earth on Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He tossed seven innings of scoreless ball with nine strikeouts while giving up just two hits in another classic pitchers duel with Pirates’ A.J. Burnett.
Dating back to his final start of the 2012 season, Kershaw has not given up a run, earned or otherwise, in 20 consecutive innings.
”For me it just starts with throwing strikes,” Kershaw said. ”Just keep pumping the strike zone and letting the defense work. That’s kind of my mindset.”
After giving up a leadoff single to left fielder Starling Marte to begin the game, Kershaw responded by retiring the next seventeen batters in a row. Starling Marte singled again in the sixth for the Pirates’ second hit of the game.
On the offensive side of the game, the Dodgers’ offense continues to be anemic at best. While he didn’t have to go out and hit a home run to ensure the victory this time, Matt Kemp continues to struggle to start the season with just one hit in 18 at-bats. He grounded into an inning-ending double play in the seventh.
”Right now the offense isn’t scoring a ton of runs, so the pitchers have got to pick up the hitters – just like we expect them to pick us up when we’re struggling,” Kershaw said.
It isn’t for a lack of opportunities for the Dodgers. After Crawford led off the bottom of the first with a walk and stealing second base, Burnett struck out Mark Ellis, Matt Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez, all looking.
Burnett followed that up with a perfect second inning in which he got Andre Ethier to ground out to first, A.J. Ellis to ground out to third and Luis Cruz to fly out to center field.
The Dodgers, led by Carl Crawford, finally broke through in the bottom half of the third inning. After retiring Justin Sellers and Kershaw to open up the inning, Carl Crawford reached on an infield single to short stop. He then advanced to scoring position by stealing his second bag of the day. Mark Ellis then knocked him in with an RBI single to left field. In hopes of extending the two-out rally, Ellis stole second off former Dodgers catcher Russell Martin only to get stranded their by Kemp’s second strikeout in as many at-bats.
They tried to break through again in the fourth after a lead off walk by Gonzalez and Ethier singling to right field, but A.J. Ellis grounded into a rally-killing double play. Luis Cruz, who has showed no signs of resuming his career-year from last season, then proceeded to strike out looking to officially end the inning.
Kershaw tried to help out his own cause again in the fifth by drawing a walk a one-out walk after Sellers struck out, but the rest of the lineup failed with Crawford and Mark Ellis both striking out.
The Dodgers had another great opportunity in their half of the sixth inning. Kemp struck out to begin the inning but the Dodgers then loaded the bases after Gonzalez singled to right, Ethier walked and A.J. Ellis singled to shallow left. However, Cruz popped out to shallow left and sellers hit a soft ground ball to second base to end the threat.
After failing to give Kershaw any insurance runs, Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly decided to pinch hit for him to lead off the bottom of the seventh. Skip Schumacher grounded out to third before Crawford and Mark Ellis both singled to shallow left field and right field, respectively. With two on and just one out, Matt Kemp stepped into the batters box with yet another chance to jumpstart his season. But, once again, he failed to do so and grounded into an inning-ending double play.
It was up to the Dodgers’ bullpen to hold the razor-thin lead.
Fortunately for the Dodgers, they were up to the task.
Paco Rodriguez relieved Kershaw to face Pedro Alvarez and struck him out before he was relieved by set-up man Kenley Jansen. Garrett Jones came in as a pinch hitter but popped out to third before Kenley Jansen fired a fastball pass Clint Barmes to end the inning and setting up Dodgers’ closer Brandon League.
League sailed through the ninth with relative ease, recording his second save of the season, in as many days.
When asked about leaving the game early with another shutout going, Kershaw said he didn’t have his normal repertoire.
”My fastball wasn’t great tonight,” Kershaw said. ”I was reaching back and didn’t have a whole lot in the tank, for whatever reason. But I was able to keep them a little bit off-balance and was able to get some big 3-2 strikeouts with the slider.”
Burnett, who pitched a second great game in a row himself, struck out nine Dodgers – including Matt Kemp three times. But, his lack of run support continued, having received less then three runs in eight of his last nine starts dating back to last season.
”I want to go up against every ace. That’s what I’m here for,” Burnett said. ”I’m not worried about run support. That’s not my thing. That’s beyond my control.”
The Dodgers have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Pirates and eight straight at Chavez Ravine. Their sole loss against Pittsburgh came in their final meeting of last season.
Related Posts:Game Three Summary: Giants 5 – Dodgers 3Game One Recap: Dodgers 4 – Giants 0Game Four Summary: Dodgers 3 – Pirates 0Game Two Summary: Giants 3 – Dodgers 0Kershaw In Ace Form, Outduels Lincecum In Victory