With the Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Mets playing the rubber match of their three-game series at Citi Field, Clayton Kershaw took the mound Sunday night with an opportunity to put the finishing touch on an impressive month.
He entered 5-0 with a 0.64 ERA and 55 strikeouts to just two walks over 42 innings pitched in five May starts. Included in that stretch are three complete-game shutouts. While Kershaw didn’t manage to go the distance against the Mets, he turned in another strong outing.
The left-handed ace reached — and surpassed — 100 strikeouts this season, becoming the first pitcher since 1900 to reach that plateau with fewer than seven walks. Kershaw began his night of work with five walks this season, and ended with that same number.
Along with allowing up his first home run since April 26, Kershaw’s season-long streak of not getting removed mid-inning came to an end. With his ace at 114 pitches and the tying runner on base with two outs in the eighth inning, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts went to his bullpen.
While Kershaw reiterated his preference is always to remain in the game, he respected Roberts’ decision, according to ESPN’s Doug Padilla:
“It’s a tough situation,” said Kershaw, who threw 114 pitches. “That’s why I’m not the manager. I think managers appreciate when you don’t want to come out of the game and obviously I didn’t want to and never really do. But you know what, he’s making the decisions and you just have to respect it.”
Calling it a night for Kershaw at that point wasn’t an egregious decision, but Roberts not electing to go with Kenley Jansen was questionable. Adam Liberatore entered as part of a double switch and promptly gave up an RBI triple to Curtis Granderson.
Roberts acknowledged there is some difficulty in not allowing Kershaw to try his hand at a complete game:
“When Clayton’s on the mound, it’s tantalizing to have him finish every game,” Roberts said. “And he’s never going to be a guy who says, ‘I’ve had enough,’ whether it’s 110, 120, 130 pitches. For a manager to have him, it’s always comforting to have him as a fall back, but I think I made that decision and I’ve got to live with it.”
Adrian Gonzalez erased Roberts’ decision by delivering a two-run single with the bases loaded in the ninth. Jansen came on in the bottom half of the inning and retired the side in order to convert the save opportunity.