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The Sports Report: In Clayton Kershaw they trust

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw
(Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

Howdy, I’m your host, Houston Mitchell. Let’s get right to the news.

DODGERS

In all the talk about the shaky bullpen, one important thing has been almost overlooked heading into the playoffs: Shaky starting pitching. Walker Buehler is either the second coming of Sandy Koufax or the second coming of Odalis Perez on the days he pitches. Hyun-Jin Ryu was the easy choice for NL Cy Young Award winner, until he suddenly wasn’t the easy choice. And Clayton Kershaw is 3-3 with a 5.24 earned-run average over 34 1/3 innings in his last six starts and particularly struggles in the first inning or two.

But manager Dave Roberts isn’t worried, especially about Kershaw.

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“I wish I had an explanation,” Roberts said, “but the way Clayton goes about things and prepares, he’s an easy guy to know that once the postseason starts, he’ll be ready and he’s going to perform.”

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt echoes Roberts.

“If anything, if you think about it too much it becomes more in your head than what you want,” Honeycutt said. “If there was any one thing that jumped out, we would address it. He obviously knows what he’s doing. He’s been good at it for a long time. He’s just trying to get better every time he goes out.”

And for those who think maybe he needs an extra day off, well....

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Kershaw is 4-2 with a 2.35 ERA in eight starts on regular four days rest this season, limiting opponents to a .210 average, .596 OPS and six home runs. He is 5-3 with a 4.07 ERA in 12 starts on five days rest, yielding a .256 average, .797 OPS and 16 home runs.

“With a guy like Clayton, sometimes the extra rest is not always the best thing,” Honeycutt said. “Because we had the luxury of doing it, we made sure he had the extra day for a long time. Then you turn around, and he hasn’t pitched for a week twice.

“Today’s player, we get into our own rhythm, our schedule, and then when you get out of that just a little bit, it can disrupt you. There’s no perfect world, I guess, is what I’m saying.”

Look at it this way. Kershaw was the best pitcher on the planet for a few seasons, but rarely pitched to that level in the postseason. Maybe the reverse will be true this season.

RAMS

So what is going on with Todd Gurley, and why isn’t he more involved in the offense? Are the Rams trying to protect his knee? Let’s ask coach Sean McVay.

“No, we’re not doing anything like it,” he said Monday. “It’s more along the lines of, each week presents a different approach. It’s kind of the feel of the flow of the game. We want to get Todd involved. I’d like to do better of being able to give him a chance to get more into a rhythm than I’ve enabled him to do these first three games.”

It’s early, but Gurley’s 14.7 rushing attempts per game represent a career low. He made a limited impact in the Rams’ 20-13 win over the Cleveland Browns on Sunday, carrying the ball 14 times for just 43 yards. After recording a career-high 89.4 rushing yards per game last year, the two-time all-pro is averaging just 67.7 rushing yards per contest this season.

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“I think it’s worked out good in terms of the balance, but I think there’s some things that you’d like to do a lot better job of giving Todd an opportunity to really get going,” McVay said. “Yesterday, I didn’t really represent that chance for him.

“There’s a lot of situations that, when you look at yourself as a coach, these are things that I’ve got to make better decisions, have a better feel for the flow of the game.”

UCLA BASKETBALL

The rules of basketball, according to UCLA coach Mick Cronin:

Rule No. 1: No uncontested layups.

“If you want to see him go off,” UCLA senior guard Prince Ali said of his new coach, “let somebody lay the ball up and see what happens.”

Rule No. 2: Take a play off at your own peril.

“They’re not going to let it slide,” senior forward Alex Olesinski said of the coaching staff.

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Rule No. 3: All five defenders keep their chests pointed toward the ballhandler.

“If a guy gets beat, you know, we all get beat,” freshman guard Jaime Jaquez said.

Cronin’s gritty approach has given his players a sense for how he might elevate a talent-laden roster that underachieved under predecessor Steve Alford, leading to Alford’s dismissal before the start of Pac-12 Conference play last season.

“They make sure that you always go hard and I think it’s really good for this group of guys,” Olesinski said of Cronin and his assistants. “Like, we need that. We need someone to push us all the time.”

NFL

Mitchell Trubisky threw his first three touchdown passes of the season, all to Taylor Gabriel in the second quarter, to finally get the Chicago Bears’ offense going and build a big lead that held up to beat the Washington Redskins 31-15 on Monday night.

HORSE RACING

Aidan Butler, 42, is the new acting executive director of California racing for the Stronach Group, which owns and operates Santa Anita Park. The thoroughbred race track is set to open its fall meeting on Friday, a schedule which will conclude with the Breeders’ Cup, Nov. 1-2.

During this year’s winter-spring meeting at the Arcadia track, 30 horses died during racing and training, and there were calls to shut down. Recently, Butler met with the Los Angeles Times to talk about his vision for Santa Anita and the challenges ahead. His answers were edited for clarity and length. You can read the interview by clicking here.

YOUR FAVORITE SPORTS MOMENT

What is your favorite all-time L.A. sports moment? Email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com and tell me what it is and why and it could appear in a future daily sports newsletter or Morning Briefing.

This moment comes from Jon Monat of Long Beach:

“In May 1962, there was a track and field meet at the Coliseum. As a discus and javelin thrower, I always watched those events. On a beautiful warm day, Al Oerter became the first athlete to throw the discus over 200 feet. He spun and the discus released in a beautiful arc touching just past the 200 foot line. The Coliseum announcer said words to the effect of, “This may be it!” And it was. A world record. One does not often get to see a world record set. It was an electric moment.”

TODAY’S LOCAL MAJOR SPORTS SCHEDULE

All times Pacific

Dodgers at San Diego, 7 p.m., Sportsnet LA, AM 570

Oakland at Angels, 7 p.m., FSW, AM 830

BORN ON THIS DATE

1871: Tennis player Lottie Dod (d. 1960)

1894: Golfer Tommy Armour (d. 1968)

1921: Sportscaster Jim McKay (d. 2008)

1941: NFL player John Mackey

1946: NFL player “Mean” Joe Greene

1964: Baseball player Rafael Palmeiro

1973: NFL player Eddie George

1982: Gymnast Paul Hamm

1982: Gymnast Morgan Hamm

AND FINALLY

Jim McKay discusses the 1972 Munich Olympics. Watch it here.

That concludes the newsletter for today. If you have any feedback, ideas for improvement or things you’d like to see, please email me at houston.mitchell@latimes.com. If you want to subscribe, click here.


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