Clayton Kershaw can’t explain why his season has started the way it has. Yasiel Puig can’t explain his slow start, either.
Kershaw was knocked around Saturday in a 6-0 defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field, the last two runs coming on a two-run home run he served up to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh inning.
“Basically, I got blasted today,” Kershaw said. “I don’t know what else to say.”
Kershaw is winless in his two starts and has a 5.84 earned-run average. Saturday, he was charged with six runs (five earned) and 10 hits in 61/3 innings.
Puig watched the performance from the bench, as he was reduced to the role of spectator.
Puig was two for 17 with six strikeouts in the Dodgers’ previous four games, which prompted Manager Don Mattingly to replace him with Andre Ethier in right field.
“He’s just getting more frustrated, it seems like, as it goes along,” Mattingly said.
Mattingly said Puig will return to the lineup for the series finale Sunday.
Whereas Kershaw was barely audible when he spoke of his failure, Puig was laughing before the game as he talked about his season-opening slump.
“I can’t even hit it when they throw it down the middle,” Puig said jokingly in Spanish.
Puig insisted nothing was wrong physically.
“Maybe my eyes,” he said, still joking.
Nearby, sidelined closer Kenley Jansen was listening. Jansen interjected, “He’s not relaxed. I’m telling him.”
Replacing Puig with Andre Ethier did nothing for the lineup, which can’t generate runs when the opponents refuse to pitch to Adrian Gonzalez, as the Diamondbacks did in their two victories in this series. With Gonzalez drawing two walks for the second consecutive day, the Dodgers were limited to one hit in the first eight innings Saturday, a fourth-inning double by Howie Kendrick.
Kershaw could have pitched eight scoreless innings and it might not have mattered.
Still, Kershaw sounded bothered by how he pitched.
“I’m sure I was missing some spots and leaving the ball up,” he said. “I made a lot of mistakes.”
Mattingly thought Kershaw never developed a rhythm.
“It wasn’t a typical Clayton game where he’s ahead in the count and he’s able to use his slider down in the dirt and throw his curveball,” the manager said.
The Dodgers used exaggerated defensive shifts early in the game, but reverted to a more conventional defensive alignment in the middle innings.
The team’s new front office is known to be an ardent proponent of defensive shifts, which could be why Mattingly became defensive when asked about the tactics.
When it was suggested to him that the Diamondbacks hitters exploited the openings that were created by the shifts, Mattingly snapped, “Let’s get this straight: These guys aren’t that good, as far being able to hit the ball wherever they want whenever want to.”
Kershaw was diplomatic on the subject, saying, “A lot of people do a lot of research and a lot of homework to put guys where they’re supposed to be. You execute the game plan, the theory is they’ll hit it where they are. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes, it doesn’t.”
Kershaw also refused to blame the ballpark. He pitched a much worse game here in May, when he gave up seven runs and six hits in 12/3 innings.
“No excuses, as far as that is concerned,” he said.
As disappointing as the game was, it could have been worse, as the Dodgers nearly lost their top two third basemen.
Justin Turner started in place of Juan Uribe, but he wasn’t there for long. Neither was Uribe.
Over one Paul Goldschmidt at-bat in the third inning, Turner and Uribe each departed because of injuries.
Turner was spiked on his glove hand by A.J. Pollock on a stolen-base attempt. Pollock was called safe, as Turner dropped the throw from catcher A.J. Ellis.
Turner exited the game with a bleeding left index finger and was replaced by Uribe, who started the previous four games.
Uribe, 36, strained a hamstring as he threw out Goldschmidt on a run-scoring groundout.
Uribe remained in the game for the last two outs of the inning, but Alex Guerrero pinch-hit for him in the fourth inning.
X-rays on Turner’s finger were negative. He and Uribe were listed as day to day by the Dodgers.