During their three seasons as teammates, Zack Greinke played the right-handed complement to Clayton Kershaw at the front of the Los Angeles Dodgers starting rotation. Though, that’s no slight toward Greinke, but rather a result of Kershaw’s sustained dominance.
The former teammates and close friends went head-to-head for the first time Friday night, and Greinke again playing second fiddle to Kershaw. “After he didn’t have the great outing in Colorado, you knew someone was going to have to pay,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said following his club’s 7-1 victory.
Kershaw lost a no-hitter with one out in the fourth inning. He carried a shutout into the ninth inning, and not only was within reach of not only throwing a complete-game shutout, but doing so in ‘Maddux’ fashion — needing 99 pitches or less.
It would have been the second time Kershaw accomplished as much in his career. But a leadoff single made that unlikely, and Chris Owings’ one-out RBI double made it impossible.
Kershaw was removed after throwing 100 pitches in 8.1 innings. He allowed just the one run on four hits and finished with eight strikeouts.
“I felt fine, but you can’t give up hits in the ninth inning if you want to finish,” said Kershaw of being removed. “With (Paul) Goldschmidt coming back up for a fourth at-bat, that was going to be a tough battle no matter what. I understood [the decision] but obviously to get that close, you want to finish.”
Kershaw improved to 9-0 with a 0.47 ERA in his past 10 starts at Dodger Stadium. “I hope I can pitch the same no matter where it is. With that said, it’s a good place to pitch,” he said.
“I’m obviously very comfortable here. You want to be as balanced as you possibly can, so I’ll try to pitch better on the road.”
Roberts credited his ace for providing needed length. Entering Saturday, only Kershaw and Brandon McCarthy have reached and completed six innings in a start this season; Kershaw in all three of his outings, and McCarthy in both of his.
After a six-game road trip that was devoid of offense, the Dodgers awoke Friday night. They battered Greinke for 10 hits and five runs to pull away by the sixth inning. As for the ballyhooed matchup against Greinke, Kershaw reiterated the uneasy feeling it brings him.
“It’s not a lot of fun to face guys you know and consider a friend. [Our families] got pretty close, so it was a little weird,” he said. Greinke, a noted slugger in his own right, struck out looking in his only at-bat.
“You’d definitely hear about it if you give up a hit, so I tried not to do that,” Kershaw said, then proceeding to heap praise on his counterpart, “It’s tough to comment when you don’t see Zack every fifth day to know what’s working and what’s not.
“It was my first time to face him, and I thought his fastball still has life. His changeup still got me to swing every time, so he looked pretty good to me.”