Clayton Kershaw struck out the first batter he faced Friday, then got ahead 0-2 in the count to Randal Grichuk only to give up a solo home run. Kershaw settled in as the game intensified with the benches clearing in the third inning that immediately led to the Los Angeles Dodgers taking a 2-1 lead.
The lead grew to 6-1 as Kershaw mowed his way through the St. Louis Cardinals lineup and retired 16 consecutive batters before Matt Carpenter’s two-out, solo home run in the sixth inning. With the Dodgers holding a comfortable 6-2 lead, Kershaw made his way back to the mound in the seventh.
The Cardinals loaded the bases with three consecutive singles and scored a run on Matt Adams’ RBI single, which was their fourth straight before Kershaw could record an out. After Jon Jay’s base hit to left that scored another run, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly paid a visit to the mound and opted to leave Kershaw in the game.
While it would backfire, Mattingly explained the trust he had in leaving his ace in the game, via Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider:
Pretty easy decisions, actually. It’s really hard to take Clayton out. Obviously they got some hits (but) he’s still throwing strikes, still going after guys. But I think with Clayton … you always feel like he’s going to get out of it, he’s always going to rebound. In a sense he does: He gets (Pete) Kozma and he gets (Oscar) Taveras, and he has got (Matt) Carpenter (0-2) and you feel like he’s going to get him. And obviously Matt did a nice job fighting off and finally got to him.”
Carpenter’s eight-pitch at-bat brought back memories of the battle he had with Kershaw in Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS that also ended in a key double for the Cardinals’ infielder. There is of course precedent for Mattingly leaving Kershaw in the game after discussing matters with the pitcher.
Although Kershaw wasn’t in the same amount of trouble and it came in a regular-season game, Mattingly nearly brought the hook in the eighth inning of a start in which Kershaw labored. The manager later said he wasn’t one to get in Kershaw’s way and the decision came with positive results as the southpaw got out of the inning and the Dodgers won the game.
They didn’t have such luck Friday and essentially find themselves in a must-win situation Saturday as going down two games to none with the series shifting to St. Louis for Game 3 would be more difficult to overcome than seeing Kershaw look human.