Clayton Kershaw secures Dodgers’ fifth straight win with seven sterling innings
Clayton Kershaw took a seat in the Dodgers’ dugout at Coors Field after completing the seventh inning Saturday and didn’t get up. He wanted to. He wanted to take the mound again, to pitch into the eighth inning for the first time this season, but Dodgers manager Dave Roberts decided seven sterling innings this close to the postseason was enough.
So Kershaw’s ninth start of the strange 2020 season ended there, with the Dodgers leading en route to a 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies and another dominant outing in the books. A day after they used seven relievers in a scheduled bullpen game, Kershaw ensured the Dodgers needed just two Saturday.
Dodgers hit their season high for runs and lower their NL West-clinching magic number to four in a 15-6 victory over the Colorado Rockies.
Jake McGee and Kenley Jansen secured the final six outs as the Dodgers won their fifth straight game. The magic number to clinch their eighth straight National League West division title is two.
Kershaw gave up one run and four hits. He posted six strikeouts without walking a batter. He efficiently mowed through the Rockies (22-29) at Coors Field, where the Dodgers (38-15) have scored 30 runs the last three nights, with just 86 pitches.
The left-hander has a 2.15 earned-run average across 54 1/3 innings after starting the season on the injured list with a back problem. He’s healthy now. He’s toying with hitters with an elite slider, improved velocity on his fastball and an evolved approach that includes throwing more pitches away from right-handed batters.
“It’s just more of just understanding that the hitters tell you how and when and if you need to make certain adjustments and appreciating that he still has his strengths and he’s really good at it,” Roberts said. “But I think that just to kind of change sequencing and pitching patterns just opens up margin [for error] and I know he believes in that.”
While the Dodgers’ resurgent ace shined again Saturday, the pitcher they’re counting on to be their ace of the future took another step toward his return from the injured list. Walker Buehler threw 90 pitches in a simulated game in Los Angeles. Roberts said the right-hander’s next game will be for real — against the Oakland Athletics on Thursday.
Buehler has gone on the injured list twice with a blister on his right hand since recording his best start of the season Aug. 21 against the Rockies. Buehler held Colorado to one run and had 11 strikeouts in six innings. But a blister surfaced and has plagued him since. He returned to throw 7 2/3 innings over two starts in the last month before going back on the injured list.
Thursday will be Buehler’s eighth start of the season and his only in-game preparation for the postseason. Roberts, however, said the club hasn’t decided if Buehler or Kershaw would start Game 1 of the wild-card round.
Highlights from the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Colorado Rockies on Saturday.
“It doesn’t matter,” Kershaw said. “Walker and I, we’ll both be ready.”
Kershaw started the team’s first playoff game for five straight years, from 2013 to 2017, but was assigned the second game each of the last two seasons. He was still a top-tier starter — his 2.89 cumulative ERA in the two seasons was ninth in the majors — but he wasn’t the unquestioned No. 1 in the rotation.
It has looked different, but he’s regained that title this year. He’s taken the next step in this phase of his career, squeezing more from his left arm and implementing the strategic changes necessary to succeed. In 2020, that combination has produced another year of reliable dominance for the team with the best record in the majors.
Takeaways for the Dodgers
- Chris Taylor hit a two-run home run and an RBI triple in his first two at-bats. The utilityman has 20 RBIs in September, a career high in a month, with seven games remaining.
- Justin Turner went two for three with a walk and is seven for 15 in four games since returning from a hamstring injury. He will start as the Dodgers’ designated hitter again Sunday before playing third base Tuesday for the first time since Aug. 28.
- The San Francisco Giants, the National League’s No. 8 seed entering Saturday, lost to the Oakland Athletics 6-0 to fall to 25-26. The Dodgers are on pace to face the eighth-seeded team in the wild card round of the playoffs at Dodger Stadium as the league’s top seed.
Castillo reported from Los Angeles.
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