Along with the Los Angeles Dodgers riding a modest three-game winning streak, Clayton Kershaw looked to remain unbeaten in his last 10 starts when he took the mound Friday night in the series opener against the Chicago Cubs.
Additionally, entering the start, Kershaw hadn’t allowed a run in his last 28 innings pitched at Dodger Stadium — the longest home streak in the Majors this season. While that came to an end on an Anthony Rizzo towering solo home run in the fourth inning, it was otherwise another dominant effort from the reigning National League MVP.
“He hit it really far,” Kershaw said of Rizzo’s solo blast to straightaway center. “It was a 3-2 [count], challenged him and he made me pay.” Kershaw finished the night with 14 strikeouts, tying his season high, and only the one run allowed as the Dodgers extended their winning streak to four games.
“I felt like I had pretty decent command the whole the night,” he said. “They were really aggressive swinging at the first pretty much pitch all night, which kept my pitch count down and I was able to make it through eight [innings].”
Even during the what’s wrong with him stages of the season, one constant has been Kershaw’s prolific strikeout rate. As a result, he’s only 12 strikeouts short of tying his career high of 248. Moreover, the left-hander again leads the Majors entering Saturday in strikeouts with 236, seven ahead of Chris Sale.
But, it’s not something Kershaw is focused on. “I don’t really take pride in either [strikeouts or limiting walks], I guess. I just take outs as fast as possible,” he said. “Leading the league in outs is good. Let’s try that.”
While the feast or famine Cubs weren’t able to generate much of anything against Kershaw, the Dodgers’ three-run sixth inning on a warm night at Dodger Stadium forced the three-time Cy Young Award winner to work in order to stay loose. “The long innings can affect you at times,” Kershaw said.
As for the Dodgers’ four-game winning streak on the heels of Kershaw’s asking for more urgency, the words had little impact. “I don’t think they [teammates] care,” he said. “We’re just playing good. Obviously we played a team like the Reds that are struggling right now, so it was good timing. But tonight [Friday] winning against this team, they’re playing really well in August, so that was a big win for us.”
Perhaps the only person who could overshadow Kershaw’s night is hall of fame announcer Vin Scully, who with the help of Magic Johnson and Jimmy Kimmel, announced he will return for the 2016 season — his 67th with the club. “It’s great,” Kershaw said of the news. “I know the fans love listening to him and he’s a big part of the Dodger experience. It’s great to have him back.”
Oh, and as for the heat wave that encompassed Los Angeles (83 degrees at first pitch), it didn’t bother the native Texan much. “It was kind of hot tonight — for L.A.,” Kershaw said. “We’re all spoiled, though. We can go play in Texas. It’s a lot hotter there.”