After battling back and arm trouble last season, Clayton Kershaw quickly came to terms with the Los Angeles Dodgers on a three-year contract extension and vowed to silence his detractors. But optimism from a winter spent focusing on agility workouts and improving velocity was derailed.
Kershaw had to be shut down during Spring Training because of inflammation in his throwing shoulder and subsequently began the season on the 10-day injured list. He returned an effective and at times dominant pitcher, though not quite to the level of season’s past.
The Dodgers nonetheless have won each of his nine starts this year and 17 in a row dating back to last season. Kershaw has logged at least six innings in all of his outings this season.
Saturday’s performance against the Philadelphia Phillies was one Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said compared favorably against others he could recall of late, via SportsNet LA:
“I thought this, from recent memory, was the best I’ve seen Clayton throw. I think that his entire mix was there. Granted there were some breaking balls that didn’t get there, some fastballs that missed up. But as far as how he attacked guys — all quadrants. I think it’s a credit to Clayton that there’s really no one way to kind of prepare for him. The slider early was really sharp, starting guys off with the breaking ball, the punch was there. And to be quite honest, we didn’t play good defense for him.”
Kershaw didn’t quite have the same opinion of the start, but admitted to having a better feel against the Phillies than he did when facing the New York Mets:
“I don’t know about recent starts but definitely compared to the last one, way better. Just felt way better. I don’t know what the difference was really. Everything was the same in between (but) it was coming out a lot better tonight. Thankful for that, and it was another great win. A lot of run to see Will do that at the end. It was awesome.”
The start against the Mets saw Kershaw allow a season-high 10 hits, including one home run, in six innings. He benefitted from Cody Bellinger throwing out a runner at home plate, and Alex Verdugo and Corey Seager completing a relay to do the same.
While that prompted Kershaw to laud the Dodgers’ overall talent for supporting him, he returned the favor against the Phillies after sloppy defense put him in multiple binds.