Like they did for marquee series with the Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies the past two weeks, the Los Angeles Dodgers aligned their starting rotation to ensure Clayton Kershaw would pitch against the St. Louis Cardinals.
He was originally slated to start Wednesday’s series finale against the Cincinnati Reds, but instead was pushed back one day and took the mound on an extra day of rest. The start was Kershaw’s first at Busch Stadium since Game 4 of the 2014 National League Division Series.
Kershaw’s trouble against the Cardinals — particularly in St. Louis — are well-documented. Provided with a 3-0 lead in the first inning, his outing began on a rocky note.
Matt Carpenter led off with a single and Yairo Muñoz followed with a double. Though, Kershaw managed to limit the damage to just one run. He had seven strikeouts through three innings and was largely cruising.
He credited having a good feel and command of his fastball and slider, per David Wilhelm of MLB.com:
“I felt good tonight,” said Kershaw, who had an RBI single in the Dodgers’ four-run fourth. “My curveball wasn’t great, but the other two [fastball, slider] I felt like I had pretty good command of.”
For as strong of an outing as Kershaw was putting together, it began to unravel on him in the fifth. He began the inning with a strikeout but promptly allowed a home run to Cardinals reliever Tyson Ross.
Miscommunication between Kershaw and Austin Barnes led to a Carpenter reaching on a bunt, Muñoz followed with a base hit, and a David Freese error loaded the bases. Marcell Ozuna’s RBI single and Paul DeJong’s sacrifice fly cut the Dodgers’ lead in half.
Although there were misplays that led to the three-run inning, Kershaw took responsibility for allowing the Cardinals to climb back into the game:
“The fifth inning was my fault,” Kershaw said. “It was a little bit frustrating that the inning ended up that way because I felt pretty good. Other than that, with that many runs [ahead], just try to limit the damage. It was a big win for us.”
The Dodgers’ ace stranded a double and walk in the sixth inning to turn in another quality start. However, the three runs (four total) did snap his streak of consecutive starts holding the opponent to two earned runs or fewer at nine.
Kershaw nonetheless extended a personal winning streak to five games, and contributed at the plate with an RBI single.