Behind a strong performance from Clayton Kershaw and timely hitting, the Los Angeles Dodgers held a 4-2 lead heading into the eighth inning of Sunday’s game.
Although Kershaw had recorded eight strikeouts to that point and only allowed the two runs, his pitch count was high — at 104 to be exact. Nonetheless, Kershaw took the mound in the bottom of the eighth, set to face the San Francisco Giants’ two through four hitters.
He needed just one pitch to retire left-handed hitter Joe Panik, then manager Don Mattingly made his way to the mound. Brian Wilson was warming up in the bullpen with Buster Posey and Hunter Pence due up.
Mattingly returned to the dugout after a brief conversation with Kershaw and left the ace in the game. Following the win, Mattingly said he was under the impression Kershaw had enough left in him to only retire the leadoff batter, via the OC Register’s Bill Plunkett:
Kersh and I talked in between innings,” Mattingly said. “The way he said it I felt he was done at (Joe) Panik. … The way he said, it was, ‘I can get Panik.’ I knew he’d had some battles. This is a day that wasn’t just cruising through innings to get his pitches in. It was a battle. And the way he said it, I felt like he was kind of out of gas. Obviously, he wasn’t.”
Mattingly also revealed the plan was to call on Wilson, but felt he wasn’t in position to remove Kershaw after their discussion:
Really we were looking to go to Willy (Brian Wilson) right there,” Mattingly said. “As we talked on the mound, it was, ‘No, I’m good.’ At that point, who am I to stop him? I’ll just stay out of his way.”
Using just six combined pitches, Kershaw proceeded to strikeout Posey and retire Pence on a fly out. The difference of opinion wasn’t a first for the player and manager.
In his start Sept. 8 against the San Diego Padres, Kershaw lobbied to throw a complete game, but with the Dodgers holding a comfortable lead, he was taken out after eight innings and 84 pitches. Kershaw has two scheduled starts remaining this season and likely won’t be pushed in either of them if it’s unnecessary for the Dodgers to win.
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