Prior to Friday’s series opener between the Los Angeles Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the season series was titled in the Pirates’ favor. They came away victorious in each of the three games played at PNC Park in early August, with two of the matchups decided by one run; including one that went to the 10th inning.
A.J. Ellis called the Pirates arguably the best team the Dodgers have faced this season, and manager Don Mattingly also heaped plenty of praise on Pittsburgh. Coming off a strong eight innings from Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw took the mound Saturday on another warm night at Dodger Stadium.
The reigning National League MVP gave up a two-run, two-out double to Andrew McCutchen in the third inning, which put the Pirates ahead, 2-1, and exited with the game tied. McCutchen’s extra-base hit isn’t an indictment on Kershaw as the Pirates center fielder is 9-for-19 with one home run, five doubles and eight RBIs against the Dodgers this season.
The double nonetheless wasn’t something Kershaw was pleased with, particularly when considering the situation. “The McCutchen double. I don’t know if frustrating is the right word,” he said. “But you don’t want to give up two runs on a hit when you have two strikes on a guy.”
“They’re a good team. I guess good hitters,” Kershaw said. “I don’t know specifics, just a good team. I don’t have much to say.” The loss was Kershaw’s first since June 27; he’d gone 9-0 in his last 13 outings. Additionally, Kershaw’s ERA increased ever so slightly from 2.12 to 2.18.
As for his quest to a 300-strikeout season, the eight punchouts Saturday gave Kershaw 272 strikeouts on the season. He’s scheduled to make three more starts, but isn’t focused on reaching that benchmark. “I’m just trying to get outs,” he said.
Kershaw already joined Don Drysdale and Sandy Koufax in Dodgers history for most 200-strikeout seasons (six). Saturday’s loss also cost the Dodgers an opportunity to further distance themselves in the standings from the New York Mets, who lost to the New York Yankees prior to first pitch at Chavez Ravine.
Securing home-field advantage in a potential NL Division Series against the Mets isn’t something that’s lost on Kershaw. “Winning the division is the priority, obviously,” he said. “Home-field wouldn’t be bad either. We still got something to play for.”