Kershaw has it going, then he is gone

Clayton Kershaw had generated so much buzz in recent weeks that Manager Joe Torre spent nearly half his pregame meeting with reporters Monday answering questions about the budding ace.

What has made the Dodgers pitcher so good, Torre was asked. Why has he been so coachable? Could he be the first or second option in a playoff rotation?

"I certainly wouldn't be afraid to pitch him anywhere," Torre said.

Only a few hours later, Torre faced a different line of questioning: How could someone who had been so good for so long suddenly be so bad?

After three innings in which he was nearly perfect, Kershaw unraveled during the middle of a 6-5 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers at Dodger Stadium.

And still, the Dodgers nearly clawed all the way back from the 6-1 deficit they were handed by Kershaw and reliever Jeff Weaver.

With the bases loaded and the Dodgers down by a run, with two out in the ninth inning, Manny Ramirez stepped to the plate to face closer Trevor Hoffman, as fans chanted "Manny! Manny!", the slugger lofted the pitcher's 1-and-1 pitch to right field for the final out.

"He can't come through every time," Dodgers center fielder Matt Kemp said. "He's not Superman."

The Dodgers had started the ninth inning with four consecutive hits. Casey Blake singled past diving shortstop J.J. Hardy and went to third base on Kemp's double to left-center field. Manager Ken Macha replaced starter Manny Parra (6-8) with Hoffman.

James Loney greeted Hoffman with a two-run, ground-rule double just out of the reach of right fielder Bill Hall. Orlando Hudson's run-scoring single past diving first baseman Prince Fielder closed the gap to 6-5.

Hudson advanced to second base on pinch-hitter Juan Pierre's sacrifice and took third by tagging up on pinch-hitter Russell Martin's drive to the warning track in center field.

Rafael Furcal followed with a bunt single, and Hoffman hit Andre Ethier with a pitch to load the bases for Ramirez.

Kershaw (8-6) walked four consecutive batters during the fourth inning and gave up three consecutive hits in the fifth. He left without recording an out in the fifth, his shortest outing since he lasted only 2 2/3 innings during his previous loss, on June 10 against San Diego.

In the nine starts between the loss to the Padres and Monday, Kershaw was 5-0 with an 0.79 earned-run average. His surge had alleviated concerns about the Dodgers' inability to add a front-of-the-rotation starter such as Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee.

Torre credited part of Kershaw's development to his ability to throw his off-speed pitches for strikes, but Kershaw wasn't getting much of anything over the plate in the fourth inning.

With one out and a runner on first base, Kershaw walked four consecutive batters to force in two runs and transform the Dodgers' 1-0 lead into a 2-1 deficit.

"For an inning there, I just kind of lost it," Kershaw. "There has to be a quicker adjustment than that."

Kershaw escaped further damage by striking out the next two batters. Then he opened the fifth inning by giving up three consecutive singles, and he was done.

His final pitching line: four hits and three runs with six walks and six strikeouts.

Weaver nearly pitched out of the bases-loaded, none-out mess he inherited, giving up only one run. But Ryan Braun's three-run home run in the sixth inning gave Milwaukee a 6-1 lead.


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