Contact Form

    News Details

    Alexander: Clayton Kershaw’s Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks is a debacle
    • October 8, 2023

    LOS ANGELES — We’ve asked the question yearly at this time: Could we be witnessing Clayton Kershaw’s career finale?

    If Saturday indeed turns out to be the last look we have of him in a Dodger uniform – this is, of course, jumping to conclusions – it was ugly, and sad.

    The first, and only, inning of Kershaw’s 32nd career playoff start was simply a disaster. Not only didn’t he make it through the inning, he only got one out, and by the time Manager Dave Roberts came to the mound to replace him the Arizona Diamondbacks had a 6-0 lead, en route to an 11-2 rout and a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five National League Division Series.

    Of their six hits off Kershaw, four were 100 mph or more off the bat:

    • A double by leadoff hitter Ketel Marte (115.7 mph, on a 73 mph curveball), which seemed to sail as it reached center fielder James Outman and ticked off his glove;

    • An RBI single by Corbin Carroll (109.6, on an 87 mph slider) that zoomed through the right side of the infield;

    • An RBI double off the left field bullpen gate by Christian Walker (105.7, on a 74.7 mph curveball);

    • And a 419-foot three-run homer into the left field pavilion (110.8, on an 86.6 mph slider) by catcher Gabriel Moreno, whose very availability was in doubt after he’d taken an inadvertent bat to the head Wednesday night in Milwaukee.

    This time it was Kershaw and the Dodgers who were stunned. And after Evan Longoria’s RBI double (a four-seam fastball that came in at 90 mph and went out at 98.8) made it 6-0, Roberts went to the mound to take the ball.

    “It’s just embarrassing,” Kershaw said afterward. “I feel like I let everybody down. It’s a tough way to start the postseason. Obviously, we still have a chance at this thing. This wasn’t the way I should have started.

    “I’m fine. I just didn’t make enough good pitches. There’s nothing health-related here, just bad pitching.”

    It would indeed be disheartening if this were the way Kershaw were to go out. And who knows? It still might not be.

    For one thing, it’s only one loss, and while losses are magnified more in a best-of-five format this isn’t the edge of the cliff yet. If the Diamondbacks were to rough up Bobby Miller in Monday’s Game 2 as well, that would be the edge of the cliff and the Dodgers would be looking down the barrel of elimination beginning Wednesday night in Phoenix. If the Dodgers can get at least one win in the next two, Roberts said that Kershaw would be his Game 4 starter Thursday.

    “I’ll be ready,” Kershaw said.

    And secondly? If this indeed turns out to be the last we see of Kershaw this season, it might just make the three-time Cy Young Award winner more determined to give it one more try in 2024.

    As we mentioned previously, his future has become an annual question at season’s end. And that’s primarily Kershaw’s doing because he has signed one-year contracts the last two years ($17 million in 2022, $20 million this season) in order to give himself options.

    He would be 36 on Opening Day 2024. He is ending his 16th season in the major leagues, and while the regular-season numbers were as brilliant as ever (13-5, 2.46 ERA, a 1.063 WHIP), the years have taken their toll. Those pitches that got into the 90s Saturday night? This was the first time he’d thrown that many at that velocity in more than a month. He has been physically compromised, no longer able to rear back and blow hitters away but instead reduced to guile, location and pitch selection.

    Up until Saturday, he had succeeded with that reduced arsenal.

    “I’d much rather just be good and be able to pitch the way I used to,” he said two weeks ago after pitching five two-hit innings against the San Francisco Giants in his last home start of the regular season. “But I don’t really think of it like that too much. Whenever it’s your turn to pitch, just go out there and try to win, and hopefully you get the job done.”

    Before Saturday’s outing, Roberts said “this is as good as he’s felt physically in the last couple of months. I think that there’s maybe five starts ago, four starts ago, (where) it was a little rocky as far as the command. But we weathered that, and I think right now he’s in a good spot.”

    Afterward, Roberts said: “Obviously they took a lot of good swings. It seemed like they were on everything he threw up there. The Pham ball (a sharp single to left on an 87.8 mph slider) was down below and he scooped it, but outside of that I think balls were just up and good pitches for them to hit. They didn’t miss them. … Usually Clayton does a great job of controlling, managing damage. And tonight unfortunately we didn’t do that.

    “I thought the stuff was good. Just some mistakes that they capitalized on.”

    Along with everything else, this puts another dent in Kershaw’s October reputation. He is now 13-13 in the postseason with a 4.49 ERA and 1.137 WHIP, though his 213 postseason strikeouts are second all-time to Justin Verlander.

    Related Articles

    Los Angeles Dodgers |

    Clayton Kershaw chased in 1st inning as Dodgers lose NLDS opener to Diamondbacks

    Los Angeles Dodgers |

    Dodgers, Diamondbacks reveal NLDS rosters, still waiting to reveal Game 3 starters

    Los Angeles Dodgers |

    NLDS Game 1: Dodgers vs. Diamondbacks, starting pitchers, lineups, TV info

    Los Angeles Dodgers |

    Dodgers leave Ryan Yarbrough, Amed Rosario off NLDS roster

    Los Angeles Dodgers |

    Dodgers’ plan to stop the Diamondbacks’ running game is already in motion

    Given Kershaw’s adaptation to make up for his physical limitations, it’s worth noting that when he was a rookie in 2008, designated for long relief in the postseason by then-manager Joe Torre, the other guy serving in that role was Greg Maddux, who was ending his 23-year career with the Dodgers and would go into the Hall of Fame with 355 victories thanks to his own mix of guile, location and pitch selection.

    “I think we were the two long guys in the ’pen in 2008,” Kershaw said Friday. “That was kind of a unique experience.”

    He never came right out and said so, but you’ve got to think he soaked up some of Maddux’s knowledge during their two months or so as teammates, after the Dodgers had acquired Maddux from San Diego in mid-August.

    Flash forward to this season, and on nights when Kershaw hasn’t pitched he’s been on the top step of the dugout in conversation, often with some of the Dodgers’ young pitchers, paying it forward. Maybe his example, of persevering when you’re at less than your best – and, if the story goes the way he and the Dodgers want, following a disastrous outing with a strong one – will be something the youngsters can draw on later in their careers.

    Meanwhile, let’s hope this isn’t the way Kershaw goes out. A future Hall of Famer deserves better.

    [email protected]

    ​ Orange County Register