Once a backbone for the Los Angeles Dodgers as they stormed out to the best record in baseball, the starting rotation — specifically its three pillars of Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu — has suddenly become a weak link.
Each of the three All-Stars have struggled in their recent outings, with Kershaw the latest to fall victim. He labored through four-plus innings of a loss to the San Francisco Giants and exited after throwing 99 pitches.
Kershaw worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the first inning and stranded seven baserunners through three scoreless. Mauricio Dubon’s solo home run off the foul pole tied the game in the fourth inning, and the Giants took a decided lead in the fifth.
Kershaw appeared to question Dodgers manager Dave Roberts when being removed from the game and kicked a cooler upon arriving in the dugout. Following the loss, Kershaw compared the ongoing struggles of the Dodgers starting rotation to a lineup being infectious, as seen on SportsNet LA
“No. … I will say sometimes just like your lineup has that momentum and confidence, same thing with the starting rotation. One guy rolls, another guy rolls. I think maybe… there’s a lot of excuses I can come up with in my head that I need to not think of. Just need to pitch better more than anything.”
Kershaw has now lost three consecutive games for the first time since 2015. Friday night’s outing was his shortest since only going three innings against the New York Mets on June 23, 2018.
Though in that case, Kershaw was returning after spending nearly one month on the injured list because of a lower back strain.
His rough patch still may pale in comparison to what Ryu has endured. He’s pitched past the fifth inning only once in his last four starts, going 0-3 with a 9.95 ERA during that stretch. Ryu and Roberts have maintained fatigue is not a factor, but the left-hander is now being skipped in the rotation.
Meanwhile, has logged five innings or fewer in two his last four starts and sported a 4.50 ERA. Since a 15-strikeout performance and second career complete game, Buehler is a mere 2-1 with a 3.54 ERA in five starts.
The Dodgers are due to receive a bit of a boon next week when Rich Hill returns from a strained flexor tendon. With Buehler and Ryu receiving extra rest before their next time toeing the rubber, Kershaw presumably will face a similar scenario.