Commentary

Kershaw's awful outing raises issues

Young left-hander is rocked and no one can seem to figure out why it's happening

Updated: May 5, 2010, 11:37 AM ET
By Tony Jackson | ESPNLosAngeles.com

LOS ANGELES -- It took Clayton Kershaw 15 pitches to record his first out Tuesday night. It didn't take quite that many to get a pretty good idea of what kind of evening it was going to be for the promising young left-hander.

Kershaw began the game by getting two quick called strikes on Milwaukee leadoff hitter Rickie Weeks. Kershaw followed that with four consecutive balls.

By the time the game was finally over, and the Dodgers had taken an 11-6 pounding from the Brewers before 50,714 at Dodger Stadium, no one remembered that for all the difficulty he had in that first inning, Kershaw had actually gotten out of it without a run scoring. All anyone remembered about Kershaw was that he more than made up for it in a second inning in which the Brewers scored nine runs -- seven of them against Kershaw before manager Joe Torre mercifully lifted him with one out.

It was simply the latest chapter in this three-year roller-coaster ride that has been Kershaw's career in the major leagues thus far. He had been just this side of brilliant in his previous four starts. But the one thing that kept him from getting all the way there in those games -- a tendency to struggle with his command, especially in the early innings -- was his utter undoing in this one.

The seven runs he gave up in that lone inning matched the seven runs he had given up in his previous four starts combined.

"I just didn't pitch good," Kershaw said. "It was pretty much everything. I don't think it was any one thing."

The strongest indicator of Kershaw's problem could be found in that he hit two batters in the second inning, one on a 1-and-0 pitch and the other on 1-2.

"It was his command," Torre said. "His stuff was good, but he just didn't have the command he needs to have. But I think the important thing to keep in mind with this kid is just how young he is."

[+] EnlargeClayton Kershaw
AP Photo/Danny MoloshokClayton Kershaw gave up seven runs in the second inning against the Brewers.

Kershaw is 22, which is a lot younger than most big league starting pitchers. But it's also two years older than he was when he first became a big league starting pitcher. And while there clearly has been progress and growth during that time, he still seems to get bitten every once in a while by one of these unqualified stinkers, and no one seems to have an answer for it when he does.

"There aren't a whole lot of positives coming from tonight," Kershaw said. "A lot of people told me growing up that the way people look at your character is how you handle adversity. I'll just try to bounce back and have a good one on Sunday."

Torre has the option of bringing Kershaw back on short rest Saturday against Colorado -- a game for which the Dodgers haven't yet named a starter -- because Kershaw threw only 57 pitches. But Torre said he won't do that because then he still would need a starter for Sunday against the Rockies anyway -- another indication of just what a shambles the Dodgers' already-thin starting rotation has become with Vicente Padilla on the disabled list.

So Kershaw will get his normal four days' rest, during which he will try to forget this one ever happened.

"This kid is so good about bouncing back," Torre said. "He has great makeup."

The Dodgers can only hope Kershaw doesn't have to bounce back from anything like this again any time soon.

Lost in the shuffle

Charlie Haeger wasn't spectacular in his first relief appearance since being yanked from the starting rotation, but under the circumstances, he was more than good enough.

The embattled knuckleballer might have saved his roster spot by coming in to start the fourth inning and sticking around through the seventh. He gave up one run and five hits, but his most important contribution was saving the bullpen on a night when it otherwise might have been wrecked for days to come.

Despite the early exit by Kershaw and the lopsided score, Torre was able to avoid using any of his front-line relievers -- Jonathan Broxton, George Sherrill, Hong-Chih Kuo, Ronald Belisario or Ramon Troncoso -- thanks largely to Haeger.

"It was a positive step, I guess," said Haeger, who slashed his ERA from 7.45 to 6.56. "It just [stinks] to lose."

Haeger, who is out of minor-league options, could find himself designated for assignment when Jeff Weaver returns from the 15-day disabled list, probably Friday. Or, Haeger could find himself right back in the starting rotation if rookie John Ely is sent back to the minors to clear a roster spot for Weaver.

Trends

Dodgers first baseman James Loney continued to sizzle. Although he had only one hit in four at-bats, it was a three-run homer off Manny Parra in the eighth inning, giving Loney four RBIs on the night. He also drove in a run with a groundout in the sixth.

Loney is now hitting .500 (9-for-18) through the first five games of this 10-game homestand, with three doubles, two homers and 10 RBIs. He is hitting .476 (20 for 42) so far this season at Dodger Stadium.

By the numbers

22 -- years since a visiting team at Dodger Stadium scored nine runs in the first two innings until the Brewers did it Tuesday night, scoring all nine of theirs in the second. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the last time it had happened was Sept. 21, 1988, when the San Diego Padres scored two in the first and seven in the second against Ramon Martinez and Ricky Horton. The Brewers' nine-run second was the biggest inning by any Dodgers opponent since the St. Louis Cardinals hung 11 on them in the third inning on April 23, 1999, at Dodger Stadium. Cardinals third baseman Fernando Tatis hit two grand slams in that inning, both off Chan Ho Park.

Quote of the day

"He was with the Dodgers in '48 and '49, then I sat in his chair. I didn't follow or succeed him; I just sat in his chair. He was so gracious and kind. Probably the best word is that he was a gentleman, and it came across. He just cared for people. He loved baseball. He was such a nice guy, so you can understand why the people of Detroit just loved him." -- Dodgers Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully talking about fellow Hall of Fame broadcaster Ernie Harwell, who died Tuesday at 92.

Looking ahead

Right-hander Chad Billingsley (2-1, 4.85), who appears to have turned a corner after turning in back-to-back strong starts, will try to turn in another one against the Brewers. He will be opposed by left-hander Doug Davis (0-3, 8.87), who has been fairly awful for the Brewers after signing a one-year, $5.25 million free-agent deal over the winter. He has made five starts this season, failing to complete five innings in four of them.

Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.

Tony Jackson

ESPNLosAngeles.com

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