In tonight’s series opener against the Diamondbacks, the Dodger bullpen nearly gave the game away. However, a Matt Kemp home run and Clayton Kershaw‘s start were enough to lead the team to a 4-3 victory.
Kershaw’s start was different and interesting (Vin Scully said he was “not at his best”) but the results were still as great as you’d expect. He struck out seven batters in seven innings of work, which, to be fair, is neither different nor interesting. However, six of those strikeouts were looking; 17 of Kershaw’s 64 strikeouts this year were looking before tonight. Six called strikeouts beats Kershaw’s previous career high of five, which he had done four times previously. Four pitchers have eight called strikeouts in a start this year.
Kershaw also walked one batter, his first walk allowed since … May. He faced 69 batters between walks allowed. A night with seven strikeouts and one walk actually lowered his 2014 K:BB ratio.
The only run against Kershaw came in the top of the third inning. Chris Owings led off the inning with a double, then with two outs Aaron Hill hit a double down the left field line to drive Owings in. Overall, Kershaw allowed eight hits but just the one run. Despite the nightmare start in Arizona, Kershaw’s ERA is back under 3.00. Kershaw’s FIP and xFIP are both below 2.00. There are only so many ways to say how good he is.
Chase Anderson was unfortunate enough to start opposite of Kershaw, and he was a bit wild. He ended up surviving five innings while giving up two runs, both on Kemp’s homer to left-center in the second inning (Adrian Gonzalez was on base after a walk). Anderson threw 39 pitches that inning, and 100 in the short start. He struck out four batters, but walked four and hit one.
The Dodgers also added an extremely important insurance run in the seventh inning against Will Harris. Hanley Ramirez doubled, then Gonzalez drove him home with a single. They tacked on another run in the eighth against Evan Marshall.
Beyond the scoring, A.J. Ellis did A.J. Ellis things in his return from the disabled list (he walked twice, then added a single in the eighth). Kemp singled in addition to the home run. Yasiel Puig had another rough night at the plate, striking out twice and going hitless in five atbats. Dee Gordon had one hit in five plate appearances. He also made a spectacular play on defense:
Dee made another good play on the very next batter, too. Visually, at least, he’s looking very comfortable at second.
If not for the late scoring, the game would have been another frustrating one potentially given away by the bullpen. Brian Wilson had another bad night, allowing three singles (one of the infield variety) while only recording one out. Luckily for Wilson and the Dodgers, J.P. Howell was able to clean up his mess and get them out of the inning without further damage. Not enough has been said about how good Howell has been so far this year; he’s the second-most reliable reliever behind Kenley Jansen.
Speaking of Kenley, he had a rough night as well. He struck out two batters in the ninth inning, but he allowed three baserunners and one run, eventually stranding the tying run in scoring position. It wouldn’t be a 2014 Dodger game if it wasn’t three and a half hours and involved several bullpen-related heart attacks. Ultimately, the late inning insurance runs were enough to secure the victory by the skin of the team’s teeth.