Clayton Kershaw takes his second loss as the Dodgers’ bullpen fails miserably against Arizona
You can say this for the 2018 Dodgers, who have lost all four games in which Clayton Kershaw or Kenley Jansen has appeared: They are making the tedium of April baseball seem interesting. A day after a 15-inning slog, during a game Tuesday in which the offense dozed for the duration, the bullpen mutated a pitcher’s duel into something grotesque with four walks in the seventh inning of a 6-1 defeat to Arizona.
The culprits were Scott Alexander and Pedro Baez. Alexander started the fire, giving up two singles and two walks to leave the bases loaded. Baez splashed gasoline on the blaze by walking the first two batters he faced. Arizona scored three times in the inning and created enough distance to capture this series and leave the Dodgers’ process upturned.
“When Clayton pitches, those are games you really count on winning,” manager Dave Roberts said. “And obviously, when Kenley gets into a game, you expect to win that game as well. It hasn’t worked out to this point. It’s disappointing, because Clayton’s thrown the ball really well.”
Kershaw made his second start of 2018. His teammates topped their output from opening day, when they provided Kershaw zero runs of support against San Francisco. This time, the Dodgers managed to at least bring a runner home. They could convert few other opportunities against starter Zack Godley, who leaned on his sinker and his cutter to complete seven innings.
Kershaw (0-2) logged six innings. He yielded four hits. Two were solo home runs, courtesy of second baseman Daniel Descalso and outfielder David Peralta. He struck out six batters. All three of the runs he has given up this season came from home runs by left-handed batters.
“This one is on me tonight,” Kershaw said, which obscured the whimpering of the lineup tasked with supporting him and the implosion of the bullpen behind him.
The relievers were taxed after Monday. For this, they can blame Hyun-Jin Ryu, who lasted only 32/3 innings at the start. They can also blame Jansen. He surrendered a tying, three-run home run in the ninth inning to send the game into the early hours of Tuesday. The performance of Jansen has been the most troubling aspect so far.
Jansen showed no signs of stress in the afternoon. He bounded through the clubhouse, fooling around with Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson. He toiled in the weight room. And he met with Roberts. Jansen “reassured me that he is completely fine,” Roberts said.
For the last several days, Jansen has polished his delivery with pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. Earlier in the spring, Jansen had felt tightness in a hamstring. The training staff cleared him to pitch in the middle of March. His velocity remained lukewarm. Honeycutt suggested the hamstring issue “got him out of whack” and was affecting Jansen “subconsciously.”
“Every year, he goes through some times where he’s out of sync,” Honeycutt said. “We’ve just got to get back to his basics. And his basics are he’s a big body moving who has got to get synced up. When he gets his legs moving properly, then the arm follows suit.”
Jansen was not the only former All-Star with velocity concerns. On opening day, Kershaw’s fastball hovered at 92 mph, down from the 93 mph he averaged in his first start of 2017, according to Brooks Baseball.
His velocity looked similar Tuesday. He needed 23 pitches to complete the first inning. Ten came after the umpires declined to ring up first baseman Paul Goldschmidt after a two-strike check swing. Kershaw was walking off the mound when he realized umpire Gerry Davis had called a ball. Kershaw walked Goldschmidt before retiring outfielder A.J. Pollock in an eight-pitch at-bat. Kershaw shook his head as he left the diamond.
“That first inning, throwing that many pitches, really set me up to only go six,” Kershaw said. “After a night like last night, six is not going to cut it. You need to get through seven, get through eight.”
An inning later, there were more pressing concerns. Kershaw pumped an 0-and-1, 92-mph fastball down the middle. Descalso clubbed it beyond the right-field pool.
The Dodgers tied the score in the third. Austin Barnes hit a leadoff double, Kershaw bunted him to third and Chris Taylor hit a sacrifice fly.
The deadlock ended during the second at-bat in the bottom of the third. Peralta was hitless in his first 10 plate appearances against Kershaw. Now he benefited from a mistake. Kershaw let a slider drift over the middle. Peralta made the pitch disappear.
“I made two mistakes,” Kershaw said. “Hopefully the mistakes stay in the ballpark. Tonight they didn’t. It cost us the game.”
Godley kept the lead safe. After the third inning, he gave up only one hit. It was a sizzling ground-rule double off Yasiel Puig’s bat in the sixth inning. The hit came with one out, which gave Cody Bellinger and Kemp a chance to bring him home. Bellinger rolled a sinker into the glove of second baseman Descalso. Kemp struck out to strand Puig at third.
Alexander replaced Kershaw for the seventh. Acquired during the offseason from Kansas City, Alexander wields a hellacious two-seam sinker. During his brief tenure as a Dodger, the pitch sinks too often outside the zone. After two singles, he walked pitcher Jorge De La Rosa to load the bases. A second walk, to shortstop Ketel Marte, brought home a run.
Alexander has faced 12 batters this season. Five have walked.
Into the mess stepped Baez, who threw nine pitches to Goldschmidt and Pollock. Only one was a strike.
Follow Andy McCullough on Twitter @McCulloughTimes
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