In last Friday’s column, I talked about the unpredictability of baseball. This series with the Chicago Cubs was no different. It made me think of the intro to ESPN’s 30 for 30: “What if I told you the Dodgers would host the Cubs for three games, and the only pitcher Chicago would score runs off of would be Clayton Kershaw?”
The Dodgers pitching staff completely shut down the Cubs for two straight games. Lead by strong outings from starters Alex Wood and Brandon McCarthy, the Cubs failed to have a runner cross the plate. The Dodgers bullpen combined to throw 11-2/3 scoreless innings, only allowing one hit, two walks, and striking out 10 batters.
The one thing here that was not like the other, was Clayton Kershaw. Usually, he’s the one not allowing any runs, and you see the runs coming at the hands of other pitchers. Not so much in this game. The game started with back-to-back bloop hits, and although they didn’t score in the first, the pitch count piled up. Like his start in Colorado, all the runs came off of home runs. It was the second time this season that Kershaw has allowed three home runs in a game. It was the first time he has ever allowed 11 hits in one game.
Kershaw wasn’t the only pitcher to not have his stuff together, either. Cubs ace Jon Lester also gave up the long ball, and only went 3.1 innings after allowing homers to Cody Bellinger and Enrique Hernandez, giving up six earned runs total. Austin Barnes and Yasiel Puig also homered, giving the Dodgers offense a total of nine runs.
Something was in the air yesterday, that enabled all of those home runs to fly out of the ballpark. After struggling through most of the season with his slider command, all three home runs Kershaw gave up were on a fastball.
It’s kind of ironic that in the Fox broadcast of Saturday’s game announcer Joe Buck asked the age old question: Can the Dodgers compete in the postseason when they only have Kershaw? And then that happens. Because this team is more than Clayton Kershaw, and they show it all the time. Kershaw is still the best pitcher on the planet, but even the best have off days now and again.
The traditional line of thought is that three good starting pitchers are needed to carry a team through the World Series. Barring injury, the Dodgers have that right now, along with more than capable long and short relief pitching, and a dominate closer. We will always hear of Kershaw’s woes in the postseason until LA finally gets over that NLCS hump into the World Series, and gets the win. But it does take more than one pitcher, one player to get to the ultimate prize and this team has that. In what used to be a familiar narrative, Kershaw would go out, dominate, and have little to no run support. Yesterday, Kershaw didn’t have it, and the offense picked it up, and scored nine runs.
The Dodgers concluded their home stand with the record of 8-2, and now head off on a road trip to face the St. Louis Cardinals again and the Milwaukee Brewers. Kershaw will next pitch again in Milwaukee, and is just four strikeouts short of 2,000 on his career.
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