I know what you’re thinking. I thought it too. Clayton Kershaw just can’t win in October.
Another four earned runs and not nearly enough swings and misses are proof enough that Kershaw is not built for the postseason.
And without any additional context, you would be absolutely correct. Clayton Kershaw gave up the lead and should take the blame for not being able to pitch his team to victory. After all, this isn’t the first time that we’ve seen this play out, right?
But when you look at the broader picture (and take emotions out of the equation), Kershaw’s struggles in the 6th inning are the least important factor of last night’s 10-2 beating at the hands of the Braves.
The Offense Didn’t Come to Play
Watching the Dodgers 15-3 victory on Wednesday night left me with an uneasy feeling going into Game 4. Whenever a team has that kind of outburst and burns so much adrenaline and energy, there is almost always an unexplainable hangover that follows, and Thursday was no different.
In what should have been another easily exploitable matchup against a rookie with only 7 starts to his name, the offense suddenly couldn’t be found. A team that absolutely feasted on the fastball all season looked lost against a modest 95 MPH heater that more often than not was right down the middle. Simply put, that will never get the job done.
Sure, the wind played a factor in this one by keeping a few balls from reaching the seats, but the Braves played in the same conditions and put up 10. The Dodgers, meanwhile, only mustered 3 hits and went 0-3 with RISP. Two runs will rarely win you a game in October.
Our Best Guys Couldn’t Get it Done
I, like many other Dodgers fans I would assume, went into last night’s game feeling confident about our chances to tie this series. And not because I expected Kershaw to pitch 7 shutout innings, but because we had our best relievers fresh and ready to come in and put out any fires along the way.
I cannot blame Dave Roberts for turning to Brusdar Graterol in the 6th when Kershaw couldn’t miss a bat, I would have made the exact same move. After everything that he has shown this year, the Bazooka was the obvious choice to pitch in that high leverage situation. But he clearly didn’t have it this night, and nothing the Dodgers could have done would’ve prepared them to put out that fire in time.
Victor González was slightly better, but even he failed to live up to the standards that we have come to expect from him, fair or not. Roberts turned to his two most trusted relievers in the biggest spot, and they failed to stop the bleeding. Had Graterol come in and shut them down, it would’ve remained a 3-1 game with plenty of baseball to be played. Instead, their inability to slow the Braves down not only ended any chance of a comeback, but it also tarnished Kershaw’s reputation even more.
That 6th Inning Never Should’ve Happened
This leads me to the most important point of all: Clayton Kershaw had no business being on the mound in the 6th inning whatsoever. Already dealing with an ailing back, what he was able to do through 5 innings should have been enough to call it a night. And maybe it was because of the lack of offensive support or because he had faith in his ace, but Dave Roberts made a mistake the moment he let Kershaw take the mound in the bottom of the 6th.
While his pitch count wasn’t exactly high, he had already thrown many stressful pitches with runners on base. Coupling that with his back injury and the fact that there was a stable of rested and capable pitchers ready, the decision looks even worse.
Perhaps a clean inning of work would’ve made the difference for Graterol tonight. Perhaps not letting Kershaw see the lineup for a third time would’ve kept the Braves bats silent. Maybe a different decision would mean that this series was tied. But it isn’t, and there is more than one reason why.
The Dodgers will go into tonight’s game facing elimination, and I honestly don’t know if they have the energy in them to make a comeback. What I do know is that I am not ready for baseball to end, and I know that they feel the same.
Knowing Clayton, he’ll put this loss on his shoulders and focus on making sure it doesn’t happen again, but that shouldn’t be the case. In order for the Dodgers to win, it’s going to take a team effort. Let’s hope that the magic of this year’s club makes a comeback tonight.