An encore to abhor: Braves rally past Kershaw, Dodgers

It happened again. Just like that day in Arizona four weeks ago.

Once more, the Dodgers were streaking, Clayton Kershaw was looking dominant, and then all of a sudden, it fell away. Today, Atlanta scored three runs in the seventh and then one in the ninth to edge the Dodgers, 4-3.

So vexing.

Kershaw faced five batters today before he was called for a pitch out of the strike zone. Here was his pitch count for the first four innings:

  1. 0 balls, 11 strikes, 11 total
  2. 3 balls, 11 strikes, 14 total
  3. 2 balls, 10 strikes, 12 total
  4. 2 balls, 9 strikes, 11 total

In four shutout innings, Kershaw threw 48 pitches and only seven balls. Meanwhile, Kershaw singled in his first at-bat, went to second on a wild pitch, third on a 30-foot single by Dee Gordon and home (after Gordon stole second) on Matt Kemp’s three-run home run with first base open.

Kershaw wavered on his command slightly over the next two innings (36 pitches, 12 balls) but still appeared in complete control of the game. But in the seventh, things went awry.

After striking out David Ross, Kershaw allowed back-to-back singles to Alex Gonzalez and Jack Wilson, before the pivotal play. Jose Constanza, the Braves’ speed equivalent of Gordon, hit a hard grounder to third base. Aaron Miles threw as quickly as he could to try to start an inning-ending, shutout-preserving double play, but the throw was to the center-field side of second base and Justin Sellers wasn’t able to catch it while coming across the bag. Everyone was safe, and Atlanta had cut the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1.

To make matters worse, Kershaw wild-pitched so that both remaining runners were in scoring position. And then Brooks Conrad, whose name might ring a bell for his home run off Hiroki Kuroda in a 1-0 victory by the Braves last August, supplied a different kind of excruciation, hitting a broken-bat single to short center that drove home the tying runs.

Kershaw stayed in to get the next two batters and complete the seventh inning on his 115th pitch of the game 31st of the inning. Charged with two earned runs on eight hits while walking none and striking out 10 (giving him a career-high 222), his ERA rose from 2.4463 to 2.4505.

Kershaw also got his 15th and 16th hits of the season, matching Brad Penny (2007) and Jeff Weaver (2005) for the most by a Dodger pitcher since Ramon Martinez had 18 in 1994. Martinez got his 18 hits in only 24 games.

In the bottom of the ninth, with Blake Hawksworth pitching, Constanza singled with one out. Hawksworth wild-pitched him to second base, causing Don Mattingly to order an intentional walk to pinch-hitter Chipper Jones.

Andre Ethier then saved the game, at least for the moment, with a long run and diving grab of Michael Bourn’s drive to right-center. But the last batter, Martin Prado, lashed a 3-2 pitch down the left-field line for the game-winner.

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