Clayton Kershaw has toed the rubber 20 times this season and in each start has provided the Los Angeles Dodgers with at least six innings. Of those outings, 17 have been a quality start. Kershaw didn’t appear to be trending in that direction against his longtime nemesis on Tuesday.
The St. Louis Cardinals had the leadoff man reach in each of the first three innings, which included taking a 1-0 lead. However, Kershaw found a rhythm and at one point retired 13 consecutive batters.
Kershaw relied heavily on his slider en route to collecting nine strikeouts. “It was good,” he said of the patented pitch. “It got maybe a little more consistent as the game went on.
“First couple innings, had some baserunners, hits and stuff like that, but I was able to settle down. Really, just getting the first batter of the inning out is huge. It makes everything a lot easier. I was able to do that and felt better with it.”
Kershaw getting through seven innings with just the one run allowed was a direct result of Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson making stellar defensive plays at first base and right field, respectively.
Although Bellinger was unable to make a diving stop on Matt Carpenter’s chopper that went for an RBI single, he tracked down a popped-up bunt back of first base to make a spinning throw for an out at second.
Then in the seventh, Bellinger made an over-the-shoulder catch on a pop-up. That was followed by Pederson’s running catch in the right-center field gap to end the seventh inning and prevent the tying run from scoring.
“That was awesome,” Kershaw said of the sequence. “Belli made some unbelievable plays and that last play there with Joc was incredible. I didn’t expect him to get to it, and he did, so it was awesome. It was a huge play for us and probably difference in the game.”
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said had Pederson not made his running catch that Kershaw was due to be removed at that point. Instead, the three-time Cy Young Award had a full seven innings to lean back on.
“As a starting pitcher you goal is trying to be consistent, try to go out there every fifth day and as cliché as it is, try to give your team a chance. Six (innings) is obviously the bare minimum,” Kershaw said.
“You get to that seven, eight-inning mark, you’re doing a good job. I haven’t done eight, but seven is good enough right now. Especially the way Petey and Kenley are throwing the ball. It’s great to be able to go out there every fifth day, for sure.”
Kershaw improved to 11-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.77. He additionally is now 8-0 with a 2.26 ERA in 12 starts at Dodger Stadium this season. “I think just as a team we enjoy playing at home,” he said of the success.
“I think every team to some extent feels comfortable in their home ballpark, and we’re no different. I don’t know. There’s something different about this team specifically. Dodger Stadium is a special place, we know that. We get the most fans every single game. Just a lot of things that make it a great place to play for us.”