Dodgers @ Cardinals May 21, 2023: Kershaw tries to salvage a split in St. Louis

Stupid Sexy Kershaw

It’s May 21 and the Dodgers bullpen currently includes Tyler Cyr and Wander Suero, while the active roster includes just three starting pitchers as Walker Buehler (elbow), Julio Urias (hamstring), Dustin May (elbow/forearm), Ryan Pepiot (oblique) and Michael Grove (groin) all on the injured list. Buehler, of course, was expected but the Dodgers’ next two starts in Atlanta will be made by the team’s seventh and eighth starters this season. When I wrote about the Dodgers’ typical need for starting pitching depth back in February, I didn’t expect them to be digging this deep less than 50 games into the season, but the team has pretty consistently needed at least seven starters over the past six years.

While Gavin Stone has one of those starts to effectively make him the seventh guy in the rotation this year (with Pepiot not even getting the chance to get a start in before going down), who the eighth would be was somewhat of a conundrum. Dylan Covey, who was mentioned at the end of that piece in February has already come and gone with 4 innings in relief of May, a DFA and a claim by the Phillies. Here’s where I originally pointed out that Bobby Miller may still be working his way back from a late start to the season and Matt Andriese just won Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week for Triple-A Oklahoma City, but here we go.

Miller will require another 40-man move, but that seems pretty obvious with what the Dodgers will do. I am sure someone will have more on Miller soon, but he’s thrown just 14 1/3 innings for Triple-A OKC this season, striking out 12 to six walks. In 2022, Miller struck out 28 in 21 1/3 innings at Triple-A with just six walks while he struck out 117 in 91 innings with 31 walks at Double-A. The Dodgers haven’t given a spot start to a player like Andriese since 2016 when Nick Tepesch started a June 24th game in Pittsburgh for the Dodgers, his only appearance in the majors for Los Angeles. Miller may come and go pretty quickly assuming Urias isn’t down for months, but moving him onto the 40-man locks in another spot for the foreseeable future.


That obnoxiously long intro is basically to say the Dodgers, once again, really need a strong start from Clayton Kershaw. The last starter to get past 5 innings of work for the Dodgers was Urias back on May 13, more than a week ago with two starts hitting the IL since then. In that span, it’s been starts of 5, 4, 4, 1, 3, 5 and 5 innings with Tony Gonsolin responsible for two of the 5-inning games.

Image Image
11:15 AM St. Louis
LF Peralta (L) CF Nootbaar (L)
1B Freeman (L) 1B Goldschmidt
C Smith C Contreras
3B Muncy (L) 3B Arenado
DH Martinez DH Yepez
CF Outman (L) 2B Edman (S)
2B Vargas SS DeJong
RF Heyward (L) LF Donovan (L)
SS Rojas RF Mercado
P Kershaw (L) P Flaherty (R)

Today’s version of the getaway day Dodgers includes no Mookie Betts with both David Peralta, making his leadoff debut for the Dodgers, and Jason Heyward getting the starts in the outfield. As I will mention below, Jack Flaherty has struggled badly against left-handed batters in 2023, so I get it.

Will Smith gets the day game start after being on the bench yesterday, catching Kershaw for the third time this season. Technically those are two of the four games Kershaw allowed three or more runs in this season while Barnes has caught all five with two or less allowed, but this just seems like funny thing to point out.

The Cardinals are sending out just about the same order as Thursday against the left-handed Urias, with Juan Yepez at DH in place of Nolan Gorman. Gorman has three hits in the series opener, including a pair of homers, and is 6-for-12 in the series with a third homer last night to essentially win the game. So that seems like a break for the Dodgers. Nolan Arenado is 4-for-12 in the series with a home run as well.


Kershaw is back on the mound for the series finale with the Cardinals as he is somehow still not going to miss a game after the passing of his mother last Saturday.

Starting on Tuesday against the Twins, just a few days after her passing as well as Mother’s Day, Kershaw lasted 4 innings while needing 90 pitches to do so. While he did strike out seven, his fourth consecutive game with at least seven, Kershaw also allowed seven hits, a walk and a hit by pitch leading to a pair of runs. Unfortunately the Dodgers’ offense didn’t do much to help him against Bailey Ober as they mustered just one run with a Freddie Freeman single in the 5th inning.

Generating 13 missed on 24 swings against his slider, Kershaw allowed five hits off of his fastball while getting just one miss on 11 swings with the pitch.

As the season has gone on, Kershaw’s fastball has been hard at a slightly increasing rate as the last dip between starts came back on April 7 to follow up his season debut.

However, that 4-inning outing against Minnesota is easily among the worst of the season which tells you how well Kershaw is doing in 2023. Before his 4 2/3 inning game against the Padres that led to four runs on eight hits and five walks, Kershaw held a 1.89 ERA as he won National League Player of the Month. His dominant appearance in Milwaukee and the abbreviated start against Minnesota have him at a 2.52 ERA/3.37 FIP/3.04 xFIP/111 Stuff+ (that ranks tied for 14th in the league). Kershaw’s slider (118) is 14th in the league and the fastball (110) is 16th, which are ahead of last year’s numbers when the slider ranked in a tie for 23rd (115) and tied for 29th (105). 

Back on April 29, Kershaw allowed just two hits while striking out nine in 7 scoreless innings against the Cardinals. Dylan Carlson ended Kershaw’s run of 13 consecutive outs to open the game with a single in the 5th and Paul Goldschmidt opened the 7th with a single. Otherwise, Kershaw cruised in that 1-0 victory on a RBI single for Austin Barnes.

The comparison is 43 innings for Barnes and just 10 2/3 for Smith, but Kershaw has allowed a .310/.400/.476/.876 line with the latter compared to a .198/.227/.319/.546 with the former in 2023. That’s pretty far off their career lines, with Barnes at .211/.248/.352/.600 in 464 2/3 career innings to Smith’s .220/.279/.388/.668 in 149 1/3 innings, but that .668 OPS is the second-highest for any of Kershaw’s 13 career catchers.


On the other side, it really doesn’t seem like Flaherty destined to finish the season with the Cardinals unless they truly do work their way back into the NL Central race. A free agent after the season, Flaherty’s age 27 season as been a struggle. Then again, three of his past four seasons have been rough.

Since his 4.7 WAR 2019 season, Flaherty has thrown just 40 1/3, 78 1/3 and 36 innings in 2020, 2021 and 2022 respectively. Obviously the first one in there is understandable, but 202 still had a 4.91 ERA and a 4.11 FIP. Flaherty was sort of better in 2021 with a 3.22 ERA and a 4.22 FIP, but then 2022 was a 4.25 ERA and a 4.97 FIP. Shoulder and oblique injuries are to blame for his shortened seasons, but his K% has also gone from 29.9% in 2019, to 28.8% … then 26.4% to 19.8%. He’s bounced back with a 24.3 K% in 2023, but it has come with a 14.4 BB%, the highest of his career while also allowing a .260 batting average … also the highest of his career.

Flaherty’s last outing came on May 15, with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 7 shutout innings against the Brewers. That was easily his best start of the season as three or more runs in each of his previous five outings. That included 10 runs allowed in just 2 1/3 innings against the Angels on May 4. And while he allowed just two runs in 10 innings in his first two starts of 2023, that came with a total of 13 walks. So who knows what to expect from Flaherty, who allowed five runs (four earned) back on April 28 in Los Angeles. Lasting 4 2/3 innings, Flaherty struck out seven to two walks and seven hits as Betts got him for a home run while Max Muncy and Heyward both doubled.

It’ll be an even split of a four-seamer (92.9 mph) and slider (83.8 mph) to right-handed batters with an occasional curve (75.4) while left-handed batters get the same percentage of fastballs (37%), but a pretty even mix of curve, slider and cutter (88.7 mph). Left-handed batters have fared much better with a .341/.461/.549/1.010 line in just about the same at-bats as righties and their .190/.303/.310/.613 line that includes a 26.3 K% compared to a 22.3 K% for lefties.


Much of the major news is already covered above, but Michael Grove will get his rehab assignment started down in Oklahoma City today as he slides into Stone’s rotation spot. How Miller fares in the majors may dictate what role Grove has once he finishes up his rehab.


First pitch from Busch Stadium is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. PT on SportsNet LA.

About Cody Bashore

Cody Bashore is a lifelong Dodger fan originally from Carpinteria, California (about 80 miles north of Dodger Stadium along the coast). He left California to attend Northern Arizona University in 2011, and has lived in Arizona full-time since he graduated in 2014 with a journalism degree.