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