Clayton Kershaw overcomes a shaky start and the Dodgers blank the Rockies 4-0

on Jun25

Dave Roberts could see this coming last Tuesday, the day after Clayton Kershaw gave up four home runs in a game for the first time in his career during a shoddy 6 1/3-inning, six-run, six-hit effort against the New York Mets.

“I think Clayton’s pretty good about turning the page,” the Dodgers manager said in the wake of Kershaw’s brutal start, which the left-hander punctuated by kicking the dugout bench in frustration.

“But I wouldn’t want to be the Rockies come Saturday.”

The wrath of Kershaw was felt Saturday night in Dodger Stadium, where the three-time Cy Young Award winner gave up four hits across six shutout innings in a 4-0 victory over Colorado.

Kershaw survived a shaky 33-pitch first inning in which he escaped a bases-loaded, one-out jam.

He needed only 70 pitches to breeze through the next five innings to improve to 11-2 with a 2.47 ERA.

Kershaw struck out eight, walked one and kept the potent Rockies in the yard, no small feat for a pitcher who has been tagged for a career-high 17 homers in a season that hasn’t reached its halfway point.

“He was on edge,” Roberts said. “Every time he takes the mound, he’s on edge, but tonight, I think there was even more, if that’s even possible. He was amped up and frustrated early on with some execution. Then he settled in nicely.”

Relievers Brandon Morrow, Pedro Baez and Sergio Romo covered the final three innings for the Dodgers, who improved to 50-26, extended their win streak to nine and won for the 15th time in 16 games, a stretch in which they’ve outscored the Nationals, Reds, Indians, Mets and Rockies 108-57.

And to think, Kershaw barely survived the first inning.

Charlie Blackmon kicked off the game with a seven-pitch at-bat that ended with a line out to left field. DJ LeMahieu doubled to left, and Nolan Arenado capped a seven-pitch at-bat with an infield single to the shortstop hole.

Mark Reynolds fouled off three two-strike pitches en route to a nine-pitch walk to load the bases. That’s when Kershaw broke out the heavy mettle.

With his 30th pitch, Kershaw struck out Ian Desmond with a sharp slider in the dirt. With his 33rd pitch, he blew a 93 mph fastball by Trevor Story for a called strike three, pumping his fist as he stepped off the mound.

Threat defused.

“You have to have that mindset where you can’t give in—that’s the biggest thing,” Kershaw said. “That old cliché, one pitch at a time, really holds true. You kind of forget about what happened, you try to make that next pitch and just keep doing that until they take you out.”

Roberts wasn’t so concerned with the fact that the Rockies loaded the bases with one out. It was that Kershaw’s pitch count was rising so rapidly.

“You’re trying to win the game, and we feel very comfortable with Clayton on the mound,” Roberts said. “But when you’re approaching 30 pitches and you have one out, it starts to get a little dicey there. I didn’t get to the point where we needed to get somebody up, but there is a point where you don’t want to put him in harm’s way.”

Roberts said Kershaw’s ability to “find another gear, another level,” and make high-pressure pitches allows him to work his way out of such jams.

“Sometimes when you get a guy with his reputation on the mound, guys tend to squeeze the bat a little bit harder with guys are in scoring position,” Roberts said. “You take that, on top of Clayton executing pitches, and it’s tough.”

The punch-outs started a string in which Kershaw retired 13 straight batters, seven by strikeout, before reliever Chris Rusin and Blackmon singled with two outs in the fifth. LeMahieu lined out to third to end the inning.

Kershaw, mixing his 92- to 94-mph fastballs with hard sliders and occasional looping curves, struck out the side in the fourth, Reynolds looking at 93 mph fastball, Desmond swinging at an elevated 92 mph fastball and Story swinging at a 75 mph curve.

His best pitch of the night may have come in the fifth, when he struck out Tom Murphy looking with a knee-high, 92-mph fastball on the outside corner. Kershaw retired the side in order in the sixth.

The Dodgers took advantage of two walks by Rockies starter Tyler Chatwood to score their first run in the second inning, when Enrique Hernandez rolled an RBI single to left. Chatwood opened the third with a center-cut 94 mph fastball to Joc Pederson, who did not miss it.

Pederson crushed a towering 421-foot drive to straightaway center for his sixth homer of the season and a 2-0 lead, yelling something toward the Dodgers dugout before beginning his home-run trot.

Sitting next to the Dodgers dugout in a wheelchair was Ziggy Lazaro, an 11-year-old from Los Angeles with spinal muscular atrophy who was named co-manager for the day as part of ESPN’s Make-A-Wish program. Pederson and Lazaro met before the game.

“Joc was very happy that Ziggy penciled him in at center field and hit him second,” Roberts said before the game.

“[Joc] said when I’m just the manager, he hits eighth. He was happy Ziggy was managing today.”

Pederson’s shot gave the Dodgers homers in 16 straight games, tied for the third-longest streak in franchise history.

The last time the Dodgers homered in 16 straight games was July 24-Aug. 7, 1956.

Follow Mike DiGiovanna on Twitter @MikeDiGiovanna

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