By Jon Weisman
The fastball was there. The pinpoint command on breaking pitches … maybe not quite so consistent.
But the main thing for Clayton Kershaw, in his return from 10 1/2 weeks on the disabled list, will be how he felt between innings and how he feels in the coming days.
Because even though Kershaw allowed two runs on five hits in an abbreviated, three-inning start at Miami, tonight offered plenty of glimpses of the superstar the Dodgers hope will lead them into October.
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Kershaw’s fastball sat at 93-94 mph, and he struck out five. The last of those came on his 66th and final pitch, and made him the first pitcher in MLB history to reach 150 strikeouts in a season without first walking at least 10. Tonight, Kershaw walked none for the 113th, 114th and 115th innings out of the 124 that he has now thrown this season.
In the process, he certainly exerted himself. Under the air-conditioned dome of Marlins Park, Kershaw fired bullets and sweat more of them — no more so than in a 29-pitch second inning. He also made an on-the-run, awkwardly lunging attempt to throw out Christian Yelich on a soft comebacker, then soon after had to duck out of the way of a 91 mph liner up the middle from opposing pitcher Jose Fernandez.
Kershaw left a few critical pitches in some undesirable locations. One of those was to his second batter, J.T. Realmulto, who smoked a slider over the left-field fence for the seventh homer of the season off Kershaw, marring what was otherwise a pleasant, 14-pitch denouement.
In the second inning, Jeff Francoeur lashed a one-out double down the left-field line and scored on Chris Johnson’s single on a hanging curveball that barely eluded Chase Utley’s glove behind second base. An out later came Fernandez’s liner. Kershaw had two strikes on five of the six batters he faced in the inning, ultimately striking out the side and allowing only that run, but it was an effort.
A perfectly clean third inning was within reach for Kershaw, until Yelich reached base on the wormkiller. That forced Kershaw to throw an additional eight pitches to Marcell Ozuna, for a 23-pitch frame.
With only a three-inning Single-A rehab start in his suitcase for his first active road trip since June, Kershaw was never going to go the seven-eight-nine innings that Dodger fans have been addicted to seeing. Perhaps if the second and third innings hadn’t added up to 52 pitches, he would have gone longer.
In the dugout as the top of the fourth began, Kershaw seemed to bristle when Dave Roberts came to tell him he was coming out of the game, though Roberts projected calm in the process of the discussion.
“A good work day for him,” Orel Hershiser said after Kershaw’s departure. “He’ll be disappointed in the results, but I think he will be satisfied (if) he feels good, has no pain tonight and tomorrow he will move on.”
Roberts said Kershaw felt good and having him on mound 'was a win for us."
— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) September 10, 2016
I’m not sure how I feel about using a major league game during a pennant race as a rehab game for a starting pitcher, even a starting pitcher as dominant and accomplished as Kershaw. Make no mistake, Kershaw was not ready to come back and make a major league start after 2 plus months off and only 3 innings of game action prior to today, but the Dodgers decided to use tonight’s start as another rehab progression and as a result we got a less than stellar Kershaw and a lot of mediocre pitching from Norris, Fields, et. al when Kershaw couldn’t get to the 4th. With expanded rosters and extra pen arms the Dodgers could afford to account for 6 innings from the pen but they are likely going to lose an important game and it all feels sloppy and rushed from a team that is usually pretty calculated in their decision making.
I’d argue that the decision is calculated, and you’re choosing not to see that. The argument could easily be: three rehab innings from Kershaw is of value. The Dodgers’ handling of Kershaw over the past several weeks has been anything but sloppy.
Don’t disagree, but I think both Kershaw and Dodgers wanted to see what he would do against MLB hitting.
I mean, it’s only with hindsight that Kershaw was “less than stellar,” and if he locates only two of his pitches better, he throws three shutout innings.
I think if he feels good tomorrow, all in all, he did very well tonight.
What kind of statement is “don’t like using a major league game as a rehab even for Kershaw” I guess a team that has “ALL” season been calculated could have just called this a bullpen game. All season with all our starting pitchers on DL lists long or short term DR30 has had to calculate & twist up the line up because of the DL. What about bringing in a 19 yr old with NO experience in MLB & we were in pennant race then too, actually more so cause we were still playing catch up. The point is “with” all its problems this season has been all about WHAT IS BEST FOR THAT DAY. Anyway look at the positives with Kershaw 1st ever in MLB since 1893 to have 150 strike outs & less than 10 walks ever. In 3 innings 5 strike outs no walks gave up 2 separate runs on strikes that didn’t do what he wanted. He physically is feeling good & looking forward to his next start. “AND” we’re still up 4/4.5 games over the giants. OHHH yeah! Roberts claimed the other day also commented today Kershaw will be on a 65 pitch count. So complain when there is actually something to complain about.