By Jon Weisman
Like cleaning an old outdoor barbecue on a warm Sunday afternoon, the Dodgers had to cut and scrape more than they would have liked in with Clayton Kershaw on the mound in Atlanta. But in the end, they got the savory meal they came for.
After Kershaw allowed 10 hits with 10 strikeouts in the same game for the first time in his career, the Dodgers scored in the 10th inning for the second time in 18 hours, eking out a 2-1 victory over Atlanta.
The red-hot Yasmani Grandal hit an RBI double to drive home Kiké Hernandez with the winning run. Grandal, who walked as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, is 7 for 12 with four doubles and six walks in his past five games — a .722 on-base percentage.
Kershaw got a no-decision, which belied what a day of action it was for the lefty ace.
“Weird day,” Kershaw told SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo after the game.
He allowed back-to-back doubles to the first two batters he faced, tying the score 1-1 after Joc Pederson’s bloop single drove in Corey Seager. After the Braves loaded the bases with none out in the second on three straight singles, Kershaw escaped on a strikeout and this double play started by Chase Utley.
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In a fourth inning that featured the slowest pitch of Kershaw’s career, a 46 mph lob, Kershaw struck out Mallex Smith to avoid letting runners on second and third score with two away. He also stranded a runner on third base in the sixth.
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“A lot going on in the old skull on that one,” Kershaw said of the pseudo-eephus pitch. “Tyler (Flowers) was taking a little bit of time, so I was going to quick-pitch him. I got what I wanted, he wasn’t ready and Angel (Hernandez) didn’t call time. I was gonna throw it, but then he got ready really quickly, and then A.J. (Ellis) called a different pitch. I was just gonna throw a fastball, and I didn’t want to cross A.J. up if he took it, and then I didn’t want to throw a fastball down the middle, so I was just like, ‘All right, he won,’ and just kind of lobbed it up there.”
The seventh inning threatened to be a make-or-break affair. Kershaw reached second base with two out when Smith and Jeff Francoeur slammed into each other in pursuit of his drive to right center. After Utley walked, Seager ripped a single to right. There was no doubt Kershaw would be coming home, even with Francoeur boasting a strong arm in right.
The play at the plate was a nail-biter — not the least because it was Kershaw barreling home — but Kershaw was out on a call that was upheld after a replay review of more than four minutes.
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If Kershaw was affected by the time on the bases, he didn’t show it in the bottom of the seventh, which he completed on nine pitches. That paved the way for him to pitch the eighth, which began with his ninth and 10th strikeouts. But then Kershaw issued his first walk in his past 21 innings, then allowed his 10th hit to put runners on first and second, before Tyler Flowers grounded into a force play to end the inning on Kershaw’s 116th pitch.
When the Dodgers left the bases loaded in the top of the ninth, the game was left in the hands of the Dodger bullpen. Chris Hatcher (win) and Kenley Jansen (save) each pitched a shutout inning, extending the dominant run by Dodger relievers to one earned run over their past 26 1/3 innings (0.34 ERA).