Throw six innings or more, give up three earned runs or less, toss about 95 pitches. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Clayton Kershaw has been like clockwork this season, the Dodgers left-hander’s metronome-like march through 2019 continuing with a milestone victory in Tuesday night’s 16-3 thrashing of the Toronto Blue Jays before a raucous crowd of 50,030 in Dodger Stadium.
Even on a night he described as a “grind,” when he did not feel good physically and did not have his best stuff, Kershaw gave up three runs and six hits in six innings, struck out six and walked three for his 19th quality start in 22 games. He’s gone at least six innings in every start and has not thrown more than 101 pitches.
The 166th victory of Kershaw’s career moved him ahead of Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax and into fifth place on the Dodgers’ all-time wins list behind Don Sutton (233), Don Drysdale (209), Dazzy Vance (190) and Brickyard Kennedy (177).
“All the historical stuff is something for me to look back on when I retire, but right now we have a singular goal in here, to be the last team standing, and every win leading up to that is just practice to get better,” Kershaw said. “I’m not really too focused on that, but I try not to take it for granted because it’s a special thing.”
Kershaw improved to 13-2 with a 2.71 ERA, but he did not look on Tuesday night like the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner who should garner plenty of votes for the award this season.
Kershaw surrendered solo homers to Bo Bichette in the first inning, Derek Fisher — on Lakers Night in Chavez Ravine, no less — in the third and Bichette again in the sixth, equaling the number of homers he gave up in his previous eight starts. The Blue Jays put the leadoff man on base in all six innings against Kershaw.
But the Dodgers turned four double plays in the first six innings to ease the stress on Kershaw, who kept the quality start intact by striking out Teoscar Hernandez with a runner on third to end the sixth, and backed him with a 15-hit attack that included five home runs.
“He was navigating tonight,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “I don’t think he was sharp or felt comfortable. But as Clayton does with what he has on that particular night, he still finds a way to get outs, put up zeroes and give our club a chance to win.”
Kershaw chuckled when told of his manager’s choice of words.
“Navigate — that’s a good word, I guess,” Kershaw said. “I also got bailed out a few times and had some good fortune. Sometimes it’s not going to look pretty. You’re not going to get quick innings, easy outs. You’re going to get a lot of traffic on the bases. You try to focus on that next pitch as best you can and compete until it’s over.”
The Dodgers’ bats made sure Kershaw would get the win, bunching all of their runs in four innings.
A.J. Pollock sparked a two-out rally in the third with a solo homer to right. Max Muncy walked and Will Smith followed with a two-run homer that traveled 434 feet to left-center for a 3-2 Dodgers lead.
It was the 11th homer in 27 games for the rookie catcher, who is batting .345 (20 for 58) with eight homers, seven doubles and 24 RBIs in 18 games since being recalled from triple A for the second time on July 27.
Cody Bellinger followed Smith’s homer with a single and Chris Taylor walked. With both runners moving on a full-count pitch, Corey Seager laced a two-run double to right for a 5-2 lead.
Kershaw got into the act in the fourth, walking with one out before Pollock doubled to left and Muncy walked to load the bases. Bellinger roped a three-run double to right-center, giving him a career-high 100 RBIs and the Dodgers an 8-2 lead.
Bellinger was thrown out trying to stretch the hit into a triple, and his pants nearly came off on his acrobatic slide into third. With a six-run lead, Bellinger and his teammates could laugh at the wardrobe malfunction as he headed to the dugout.
The Dodgers added four more runs in the sixth when Muncy hit his 32nd homer, a solo shot to right, and Taylor, in his first game after missing a month because of a left forearm fracture, hit a three-run homer to left.
Joc Pederson hit a three-run homer — his 25th — to cap a four-run rally off Toronto infielder Richard Urena in the eighth.
“I was pretty bad tonight,” Kershaw said, “so I’m thankful we scored that many runs.”
Cody Bellinger and Mike Trout comparison
Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers and Mike Trout of the Angels are putting together staggering offensive seasons. They also are close in most statistical categories. Here’s a daily look at their production:
Source: Baseball Reference