|Clayton Kershaw discusses balk call made by first base umpire Alfonso Marquez, during the third inning of tonight's action. (photo by Reed Saxon/AP)|
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
Clayton Masterful, 132 Pitches Thrown, One Strike Short of Shutout
In a commanding performance, Clayton Kershaw overcame the narrow strike zone of home plate umpire Ted Barrett who was reluctant to calls strikes to pitches the Dodger ace delivered on the black. Throwing what was a career high 132 pitches on the night, Kershaw came within one strike of pitching his 8th career shutout, but it wasn’t to be.
After battling in the first inning, throwing 29 pitches and loading the bases before retiring the side, it looked like tonight was going to be a short outing for Kershaw. However, the Dodger ace persevered. Striking out the side in the 2nd, and the next two in the third. By the end of the third frame, Clayton had recorded his 7th strikeout on the night.
This was a Fernandoesque performance. A lot of pitches thrown. Hitters swinging and missing and looking lost up there a lot. Kershaw’s curveball befuddling Nat hitters as Fernando’s screwball had batters swinging and missing from the heels. Much like Valenzuela, Kershaw wasn’t getting much offensive help tonight as opposing starter Dan Haren was on his game. It was shut ‘em out or lose tonight, and Clayton knew it.
When the Dodgers scratched across two runs in the bottom of the third, (with Kershaw scoring the first after being hit by a pitch), it almost felt like the Clayton had been handed five runs. There was no way he was going to give one up tonight.
With the same 2-0 score in the 8th inning, Manager Don Mattingly made the most gutsy managerial move I remember him making. He allowed Kershaw to hit for himself in the bottom of the 8th after he had already thrown 111 pitches on the night. Frankly, had I been in his position, I probably would have removed him from the game. It was a surprising move as Don usually goes by the book, but perhaps his decision was influenced by a few factors.
First, Kershaw had been masterful and he deserved a shot at the shutout. It was his game to lose. The only player that had hit him on the night, (3 for 3 Ryan Zimmerman), was coming up first. But even if he homered, Clayton would still maintain the lead. He was due to get him out.
Next, the Dodger bullpen has been inconsistent and is by no means something in which to have confidence. Mattingly also wants his shell-shocked pen to get some rest. They certainly needed it after Beckett lasted only three innings the night before.
Lastly, though Mattingly has claimed that Brandon League is still his closer, there appears to be a "closer controversy" in place. By letting Kershaw finish, he was avoiding the inevitable questions about who his real closer is. Unfortunately for Don, he was forced to show his hand and let the world know who he considers as his current closer now.
Obviously Kershaw was laboring in the 9th as Zimmerman took him to the right field warning track and Ian Desmond followed taking him to the left field track. Both came within an eyelashing of homering. With Adam LaRoche up next, the Nat first baseman worked the count full and fouled off pitch after pitch.
Pitch number 125, 126, 127, 128 was delivered. Unable to put the left-handed slugger away, Kershaw came close as LaRoche’s 6th swing in the at bat resulted in a foul tip that catcher A.J. Ellis was unable to cleanly handle. The crowd reacted with exhuberance, thinking the strikeout was in hand, but it wasn’t to be. Three fouls followed and then LaRoche zinged Kershaw’s 132nd pitch of the night to centerfield, a line drive single.
Clayton was spent. Done for the night. though a few boo-birds were heard as Mattingly removed the Dodger ace from the game, they were obviously coming from unknowledgeable fans. 132 pitches in this day’s game is pretty much uncharted territory. It is seen as borderline insanity and a recipe for injury. Kershaw had given it all on the field. He would have had the CG with a bit more charity from his home plate umpire, but it wasn’t to be.
In came the Dodgers new closer, Kenley Jansen. He retired his lone hitter of the night on strikes. Game over. Kershaw the winner. Good ol’ country hardball at the Ravine tonight. It’s nice to have a legitimate ace.