Clayton Kershaw puts on masterful performance as Dodgers rout Reds to avoid sweep
The release was almost cathartic, the frustration of a brutal homestand filled with blown leads and late-inning losses and the tension of another tight game dissipating with every clutch two-out hit by the Dodgers in the eighth inning Wednesday.
First came the tack-on runs, a Chris Taylor run-scoring triple and an AJ Pollock RBI single that turned a two-run lead into a four-run cushion. Then came the “jug runs,” as manager Dave Roberts calls them, baseball-speak for “going for the jugular,” two-run singles by Matt Beaty and Mookie Betts.
By the time the inning was over, the Dodgers sent 11 men to the plate and scored six runs for an eventual 8-0 victory over Cincinnati, a taut pitchers’ duel between Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw and Reds right-hander Sonny Gray ending with a position player on the mound for the Reds.
“There was a little exhale, I think, guys kind of let loose,” Roberts said after the Dodgers snapped a three-game losing streak. “I love the handshakes and the air high-fives from second base. We haven’t had a whole lot of those this past week.”
The Dodgers had lost seven of nine, three to the National League West-rival San Diego Padres, and through the seventh inning Wednesday, they were batting .183 (15 for 82) with runners in scoring position in their last 10-plus games. They had not scored a run after the seventh inning since April 17.
Utility player Matt Beaty was sent to the Dodgers’ alternative training site to break out of a slump. Edwin Rios might benefit from such an approach.
Both of those trends fizzled as the afternoon shadows began creeping into Chavez Ravine, and after Kershaw positioned his team for a win with a dominant seven-inning start in which he gave up four hits, struck out eight and walked one.
“He’s been a great pitcher for a long time, a stopper, he’s been the ace,” Roberts said of Kershaw, who is 4-1 with a 1.16 ERA and 37 strikeouts in 33 innings since his opening-day loss at Colorado. “You knew that he knew how much we needed this game. For him to go deep in the game, to put up zeros, was big for our club.”
Kershaw, leaning more on his 88-mph slider than his 91-mph fastball and 75-mph looping curve, induced a season-high 23 swings and misses — a career-high-tying 22 on breaking balls, according to ESPN Stats and Info — and did not allow a runner to reach third base. Of his 90 pitches, 64 were strikes.
The Dodgers took a 2-0 lead on Luke Raley’s run-scoring double-play grounder in the second and Justin Turner’s solo homer in the third — his team-leading sixth of the season.
Reliever Blake Treinen struck out Jesse Winker, who homered in the first two games, with an 87-mph down-and-in slider and whiffed Nick Castellanos with another 87-mph slider with runners on first and third to end the top of the eighth, and Kenley Jansen began to warm for the ninth.
The closer’s services were not necessary. Turner drew a one-out walk off reliever Sal Romano in the bottom of the eighth, and Taylor lined a two-out, run-scoring triple over the head of Castellanos in right for a 3-0 lead.
Pollock singled to left to make it 4-0. Raley (intentional) and Austin Barnes walked to load the bases. Beaty lined a pinch-hit, two-run single to left that squirted out of the glove of the diving Winker for a 6-0 lead.
Betts followed with a two-run single to left-center to make it 8-0, and Gavin Lux walked before infielder Alex Blandino came on to get Turner to fly to right.
“That was fun — guys contributing top to bottom, pushing runs across … that’s what we saw a lot of earlier this season and haven’t seen much of lately,” Taylor said before the Dodgers departed for a seven-game trip to Milwaukee and Chicago. “Hopefully that will give us a little confidence and we can carry that into this trip.”
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