Clayton Kershaw took the mound for his 31st start this season and presumably for the 28th time, wasn’t overly thrilled with being removed from a start.
The reigning National League MVP and three-time Cy Young Award-winner has three complete games to his name this season and as an ultra-competitor, rarely, if ever, willingly hands the ball over to Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
Kershaw was lifted after just five innings and 80 pitches on Thursday. He exited with the Dodgers trailing the Arizona Diamondbacks, 3-0, and his spot in the lineup leading off the bottom of the fifth. With Austin Barnes set to pinch-hit, an irate Kershaw didn’t hold back any frustration in a tense conversation with Mattingly.
“Same as always with Kershaw. He doesn’t ever want to come out,” said an unaffected Mattingly along with adding a decision to pinch-hit for his ace would’ve come in the bottom of the fourth had Scott Schebler extended the inning.
Although Barnes flied out, adding more fuel to Kershaw’s rage considering part of his argument to remain in the game was his third-inning base hit, the Dodgers went on to score six runs in the inning. Howie Kendrick broke the seal with a two-run single, and Chris Heisey capped it off with a grand slam.
“I’ve seen him like that before. I’ve talked about it numerous times with different guys. It never bothers me,” Mattingly said. “Those guys are being competitive, wanting to stay in the game. That never bothers me, at all. I have to make that decision. He can not like it. We’ll be able to talk about it later, it’s no big deal. I don’t get offended by what went on today at all.”
Like Mattingly, Kershaw also brushed off the conversation; albeit he did so in drastically different fashion. Kershaw’s postgame interview naturally began with a question pertaining to the exchange. “I’m not going to talk about that at all,” he said.
“If you guys want to talk about the game, I’m more than happy to talk about that.” As for the five innings of work, Kershaw wasn’t pleased with his breaking ball or allowing three two-strike hits. “My curveball was terrible. I need to go back to the drawing board on that,” he said.
“A lot of two-strike hits. Can’t let that happen. They hit a couple balls hard, a few balls found holes. They had a great gameplan, they swung the bats well against me.” Kershaw went on to his teammates for picking up the slack offensively — the same teammates who didn’t take issue with his dugout tirade.
Not only Thursday’s hero, Heisey was in close proximity when the discussion broke out. “I was intent on listening to what he had to say,” said the 30-year-old Heisey, who is in his first season with the Dodgers. “He’s the best pitcher in baseball.
“I love the fact that he didn’t want to come out of the game, but I also respect the coaches for making the decision to get him out of there. You can’t ever argue about the competitive spirit he has. You want to play behind and with a guy that cares to be in the game.”
Kendrick shared much of the same thoughts as Heisey. “Clayton is the type of competitor that never wants to come out of the game,” the second baseman said. “He always wants to be in there with his teammates and try to get the job done. It feels good to help him out a little bit. I was happy we were able to put some runs on the board.”
For a matter that’s much ado about nothing, Kershaw wasn’t in the slightest concerned when told him sidestepping questions could lead to less-than-flattering speculation of what was said between him and Mattingly. “Make it up then. It’s between Donnie and I. Nobody else needs to know,” he said to end the interview.