Sometimes, when Clayton Kershaw is less than perfect, we’ll joke about it being an off night for him. However, this was a legitimately off night for the Dodgers’ ace. It was his worst performance of the season to date by game score (46); his five-run, seven-inning effort vs. Miami was 53, thanks to those 10 strikeouts.
It was one bad inning that did Kershaw in. All four runs that the Pirates scored off of him came in the second. After retiring the leadoff batter, Kershaw allowed a pair of singles, then issued his eighth walk of the season (to Sean Rodriguez) to load the bases. Pirates starting pitcher Chad Kuhl, in his first major league at bat, struck out, but not before seeing eight pitches. With two outs, Adam Frazier, in just his fourth MLB at bat, singled to bring in a run. David Freese followed with a bases-clearing double. It wound up being a thirty-pitch frame for Kershaw.
Even though the Pirates wouldn’t score again, Kershaw didn’t really look like himself for most of the night. He struggled with his command in the early innings, and never quite found it. He only struck out four batters through six innings, and he allowed nine hits, the second most he’s given up all season.
One of the most perplexing moments of the game came in the bottom of the sixth inning. Yasmani Grandal had just made a great throw to nail a stealing Starling Marte. Chris Stewart then doubled, his second hit of the day (making him 9-for-17 lifetime against Kershaw). With first base open and the pitcher’s spot on deck, Dave Roberts ordered Kershaw to intentionally walk Rodriguez. Kershaw then struck out pinch hitter Gregory Polanco, avoiding further damage.
But the IBB is hard to reconcile. Putting aside the fact that Kershaw is in the midst of pursuing a record-shattering K/BB ratio, it’s almost always difficult to justify a free base runner. Even with Kershaw not at his sharpest, I just can’t quite wrap my head around not trusting him to handle the batter he was currently facing (especially because the pitcher was, of course, pinch hit for).
If we are focusing on the historical, though, this was Kershaw’s first multi-walk game of the season, and it came on a technicality, and that sort of sucks.
Meanwhile, Kuhl did a pretty good job keeping the L.A. lineup in check through his five innings of work, allowing three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out five. The two Dodgers who got him were Corey Seager and Justin Turner. Seager’s third-inning double put him on base for Turner’s 11th home run of the season. Seager reached on a walk in the fifth inning, and came in to score on Turner’s double off the 21-foot right field wall (that would have been out if the wall had been a foot or two shorter). Turner attempted to score on a ball that got away from Stewart at the plate, but was cut down, and that was the difference in the game.
Neither team’s bullpen allowed a base runner for the remainder of the game. Casey Fien struck out two batters in two innings. Juan Nicasio, A.J. Schugel, and Mark Melancon combined for four perfect frames.
An interesting and sort of astounding note on that steal attempt by Marte:
That was the first stolen base attempted with Kershaw on the mound this season
— Dodgers Gameday (@LADGameday) June 27, 2016