Dodger starters are no strangers to unusual games lately. A few nights ago, Brandon McCarthy struck out ten, walked none, and allowed four home runs. On opening day, Clayton Kershaw induced one of the highest whiff rates of his career, yet gave up three runs. On his next turn, he allowed six runs. Tonight’s 7-3 win against the Rockies continued the trend.
On the one hand, Clayton Kershaw was amazing tonight. He struck out 12 batters and walked one, and allowed only one earned run. He induced 17 swinging strikes, a higher than normal rate. He touched 95 with his fastball and 90 with his slider. He only allowed three fly balls. He also made Troy Tulowitzki, one of the best players in baseball, do this:
On the other hand, Kershaw looked… not that great? Even when he struck out six of the first nine batters, he didn’t look like he had his best stuff. He was frequently missing his spots. Early on, when Kershaw missed, the pitches were high enough that batters swung underneath them. Drew Stubbs managed to strike out on a slider at his shoulders. Yasmani Grandal also helped out with a few excellent frames (but hurt with a passed ball – tonight was a very Grandal game for Grandal). Two times, Kershaw missed badly over the plate. Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon made him pay with two home runs. The Blackmon home run was jarring, since he only allowed one home run to a left-handed batter all of last year.
Overall, Kershaw has had better days than the line score and peripherals would indicate. With command like he had, things could have gone way worse. Still, as we’re fond of saying, a bad day for Kershaw can be a career day for many others. Kershaw will be fine as the season progresses. A 25% HR/FB rate isn’t going to continue. Neither is a .422 BABIP. Still, Kershaw was so spotless during the regular season last year (other than the Arizona start) that this feels unusual. Seeing a pitcher who infrequently hits speed bumps like this actually hit them can be surprising.
Luckily, the offense made Kershaw’s speed bumps a non-concern for tonight. Adrian Gonzalez continues to hit out of his mind. He hit two doubles and a single tonight. Howie Kendrick proved that he’s the king Kendrick by hitting a home run and a double off of Kyle Kendrick. Joc Pederson narrowly missed hitting a grand slam, walked twice, and struck out once. A typical game for him, too.
Not to be overlooked is the performance of the bullpen, yet again. Paco Rodriguez pitched a perfect seventh inning with a strikeout. Yimi Garcia continues to look amazing. Tonight, he struck out two batters in his inning of work. Adam Liberatore made his major league debut in the ninth and worked a perfect inning. Another three scoreless innings, after an awesome series against the Mariners? That will work, and feels amazing after living through last year’s constant struggles.