Six innings ‘not acceptable’ for Clayton Kershaw, but Dodgers will take it

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw pitches into the fifth inning during a game against the Braves on June 4.

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw pitches into the fifth inning during a game against the Braves on June 4.

(Chris Carlson / Associated Press)

Most pitchers would be satisfied with six innings of three-hit shutout ball, but Clayton Kershaw, a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 NL most valuable player, is not like most pitchers.

The demanding Dodgers ace needed 96 pitches to grind through a season-low six innings in Saturday night’s 4-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves.

Though he improved to 8-1 with a 1.46 earned-run average on the season, Kershaw struck out only four, a season low; he balked a runner to second and hit an opposing pitcher with a pitch for the first time in his nine-year career. He allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in four of six innings.

“Six innings is not acceptable,” said Kershaw, who threw shutouts in three of his previous six starts. “I’ll take it for tonight, but I don’t ever want to leave three innings for the bullpen.”

Kershaw got into a brief but heated argument with first-base umpire Joe West, who ruled that the left-hander balked on a pickoff attempt at first.


“I probably shouldn’t talk about it,” Kershaw said. “I’ll say something I shouldn’t.”

Atlanta starter Bud Norris glared angrily at Kershaw after he was hit in the back of the left shoulder by a pitch to start the sixth inning.

“The ball was cutting all over the place—I just didn’t have a great feel,” Kershaw said. “I would have been mad too. That doesn’t feel good, especially when you don’t expect it.”

The Dodgers backed Kershaw with several fine defensive plays and broke open a 1-0 game with three runs in the eighth. Relievers Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez and Kenley Jansen each threw scoreless innings.

Kershaw needed 26 pitches to complete the sixth, getting Jeff Francoeur to ground sharply to shortstop with two on to end the inning.

“He’s a human. He’s not a robot,” Jansen said of Kershaw. “I know he thinks six innings is not acceptable, but when that happens, we have to pick him up.”