The Los Angeles Dodgers have gone all season working to protect Clayton Kershaw from himself and take every measure necessary to ensure their longtime ace would make it to October healthy. Even if it’s meant agitating the fiery competitor with what he perceived to be a quick hook.
However, there was a shift in strategy on Friday night against the New York Mets. Heading into the start, Kershaw had not thrown more than 101 pitches in an outing this year. He’d reached that total three times; last doing so over seven innings against the St. Louis Cardinals on Aug. 6.
Kershaw’s 102nd pitch at Citi Field was ball one to pinch-hitter Pete Alonso. He walked Alonso three pitches later to load the bases and was promptly removed from the game. A single and walk preceded the free pass given to Alonso.
Although it was evident Kershaw had begun to lose some of his command, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts explained the team made a calculated decision by initially leaving him in the game, as seen on SportsNet LA:
“He’s had six days’ rest, I think it is, and he’s going to have six more on the other side. I wanted to stress him a little bit or kind of build up that endurance, and I thought he deserved it. I thought he was throwing the baseball really well. But then there was a walk in there and that walk to Alonso, I just felt at that point in time Joe is a pretty good option.”
Joe Kelly made a heads-up play on a ball hit to the right of the mound and limited the damage to an RBI single after inheriting the jam. Thus, Kershaw was charged with two runs over his 6.1 innings of work.
While there was an effort to get him through seven frames, he nonetheless produced a 20th quality start in 20 outings this season and snapped a personal three-game losing streak, which was his longest such stretch since June 2015.
Moreover, Kershaw remained undefeated in 15 career regular-season starts against the Mets, improving to 10-0 with a 2.18 ERA. While he’s next aligned to start Thursday, Kershaw is on track to start Game 1 of the National League Division Series if the Dodgers do not adjust their rotation.