A collision, a wild pitch, a walk-off double and 10 K’s by Kershaw. How the Dodgers won in 13 innings
The victim looked “almost like he got into a car accident,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. Gashes dotted the forehead and arms of outfielder Joc Pederson. His jaw bore the imprint of another man’s forearm. He could not rotate his neck.
The car, to complete the metaphor, was fellow Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig. The two men collided in the 10th inning of a 2-1 victory in 13 innings against St. Louis. The pileup left Pederson prone in the dirt of the warning track, with Puig clutching his ribs beside him. It also injected injury into an evening filled with intrigue.
For eight innings, Clayton Kershaw suffocated the Cardinals, prepared to make a first-inning solo homer by Yasmani Grandal hold up as the only necessary run. Two outs from his first shutout of 2017, Kershaw flung a slider in the dirt that kicked past Grandal. As Grandal searched for the ball, St. Louis outfielder Randal Grichuk raced home from second base.
The run tied the game and sucked the air out of the stadium. The ballpark was still reeling when Pederson and Puig ran into each other. The energy would not return until the 13th, when Enrique Hernandez took a walk against former Dodgers reliever Jonathan Broxton, and Logan Forsythe brought him home with an RBI double.
“This,” Roberts said, “was one of the weirder ones of the season.”
When he rose from the dirt, Pederson left the game with the official diagnosis of a neck strain. Roberts suggested Pederson would not require time on the 10-day disabled list. The team will reevaluate him as the week progresses. Pederson could get shut down to make room for Kenta Maeda’s return on Thursday.
Roberts could smile after the Dodgers (27-19) won for the fifth time in six games. The team maintained momentum heading into a challenging stretch, with two series against St. Louis sandwiched around a weekend rendezvous with the Cubs. Through the season’s first seven weeks, the Dodgers had feasted on the weak. They took three of four from Miami over the weekend. They beat the Padres five times. They swept the Pirates and the Phillies. Now comes a more robust challenge.
In the opener on Tuesday, Kershaw spun a 10-strikeout, three-hit gem. His offense managed only three hits, suppressed by Cardinals right-hander Lance Lynn. The last hit, by Forsythe, was enough.
Forysthe had returned to the lineup after missing more than a month with a broken toe and tight hamstring. His start was rocky. He struck out in his first four at-bats. He found some traction by taking a walk in the 11th. Two innings later, he cracked a 94-mph fastball from Broxton into the right-field corner and Hernandez scored from first.
“That’s why it’s awesome to have Logan back,” Kershaw said. “He had a rough night before that, but he’s the same guy at the plate. Doesn’t change. He grinds through another at-bat and puts a great swing on a ball, and wins the game for us in his first game back.”
Kershaw had not intended for the late-night heroics to be necessary. During his first nine starts, he experienced intermittent command of his offspeed pitches. His outings were truncated, often out of caution rather than concern. He appeared to reclaim mastery of his slider late in an outing on May 12 in Colorado. The pitch appeared in full force during a start last week in San Francisco. He complemented it with his curveball on Tuesday.
The Dodgers staked Kershaw a one-run lead in the first. Grandal entered the game batting .393 in May. He upped his average by waffling a full-count fastball from Lynn. The ball soared over center fielder Dexter Fowler’s head and cleared the fence for Grandal’s fifth homer of the season.
Kershaw faced the minimum through five innings. Leaning on his slider, he struck out three. Grandal cut down St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina, who had singled with one out in the second, trying to swipe second base on an 0-2 count to shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
In Lynn, Kershaw found a worthy counterpart. Lynn retired eight batters in a row after Grandal’s homer. He did not allow another hit until Chase Utley singled in the eighth.
Diaz greeted Kershaw in the sixth by smashing a slider for a leadoff double. He took third on a groundball. Cardinals manager Mike Matheny allowed Lynn to bat with the tying run at third base. Lynn looked helpless in a three-pitch strikeout. Fowler did not look much better: He fanned on the fourth pitch of his at-bat, a slider that darted toward his back foot as it slipped underneath his bat.
After Carpenter nearly tied the game in the seventh with a deep drive to left-center field, Kershaw bowled over the Cardinals in the eighth. He struck out Molina with a curveball. Peralta swung through a slider. So did Diaz.
“The curveball was as good as it’s been all year,” Roberts said. “The slider was very sharp, I felt. The fastball — everything was working tonight. I felt he deserved a chance to finish the game.”
Kershaw returned to his dugout. He found a seat next to pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. The two conferred with Grandal as the Dodgers batted. When Kershaw came up, he took a two-out walk to extend the inning. He trotted from first base back to the dugout to drop off his gear, then returned to the mound. The ending was far from tidy.
The second pitch of the ninth was a fastball away. Grichuk punched it up the middle for a single. He took second on a groundout. Then Kershaw dusted his slider, and Grandal lost sight of it. Kershaw slapped his hand against his forehead after Grichuk touched the plate.
“It was just unfortunate,” Kershaw said. “No way else to put it. Just the way it bounced, and where it ended up. The guy gets two bases on a wild pitch. That’s no fun.”
Neither was the prospect of extra innings. But the Dodgers lacked prowess at the plate, which forced Roberts to use Kenley Jansen, Pedro Baez, Luis Avilan and Josh Fields to protect the deadlock. He also needed to move outfielders off his bench after Pederson met Puig.
The accident occurred with two outs in the 10th. Molina roped the ball into the gap between the two outfielders. “We both went for it,” Puig said through his interpreter. “We didn’t want it to drop. We went all out for it.”
Puig shot out his left arm to catch the ball. His forearm clocked Pederson. The blow pitched Pederson headlong into the base of the wall. Puig held the baseball aloft. The movement triggered pain in his side, and he crumpled beside Pederson.
“I was the first to get there,” Puig said. “When I got there, I told him I had it. It was too late.”
It was the second time on the evening Pederson ran into a teammate. In the seventh inning, Cody Bellinger climbed up Pederson’s back to pull down a drive at the warning track. Pederson could laugh after that one. The next was more serious.
“My neck’s a little stiff,” Pederson said. “We’ll see how it feels tomorrow.”
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