While the accolades continue to flow for Dodgers’ left-hander Clayton Kershaw, there may be the slightest trepidation in stepping on the mound at Chase Field.
Over his seven year major league career, Kershaw performances against the Diamondbacks are less enlightening than most teams. Coming into his start Wednesday night in the desert, Kershaw had a 9-7 lifetime record against the Diamondbacks and a relatively high 2.61 ERA.
Compared to staggering numbers put up so far this season, the Diamondbacks have made Kershaw somewhat mortal.
Still, Kershaw’s ability to gather wins and strikeouts at a prodigious rate remains the envy of those who follow the game closely.
Coming into his Wednesday start, Kershaw was 2-1 against the Diamondbacks this season and an incomprehensible 5.28 ERA. In one of the worst starts of his career, Arizona reached the Dallas, Tex. native for six hits, seven runs, all earned, two walks and Kershaw left in the second inning trailing 7-0.
Lifetime in nine starts at Chase Field, Kershaw has a 3-6 record and an uncharacteristic 4.10 ERA
“Usually the team which scores first has a better chance to win but you will not put up six, seven runs against Kershaw,” said Arizona manager Kirk Gibson before Wednesday’s game. “We have a plan for him but I won’t tell what it is. But, I expect (Kershaw) to make an adjustment.”
While Kershaw went 4-0 and a 1.07 ERA in July, he has a 2-1 mark and one no-decision in his last four starts. Previously, he was on fire.
Kershaw won 11 straight from June 2 to Aug. 16 and leads the majors with six complete games. Prior to Wednesday’s start, he was 8-1 on the road with a 1.76 ERA in 10 starts. Over his road starts, hitters were hitting .203 against Kershaw.
When assessing Kershaw’s mortality against the Diamondbacks, the lefty faced a different line-up Wednesday night than the one which hammered him back in mid-May.
Three of Kershaw’s enemies were not in the Arizona line-up Wednesday and those replacements may not introduce the kind of challenge previously presented.
First baseman Paul Goldschmidt is out with a broken right hand and Martin Prado and Gerardo Parra were both traded.
In the line-up Wednesday night, Gibson had Jordan Pacheo replacing Goldschmidt at first, Cliff Pennington at third, where Prado was stationed, and Alfredo Marte in right, Parra’s position.
“Look, this is a good hitter’s park and some guys see the ball better here,” offered Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly to explain why the Diamondbacks have had success against Kershaw in Chase Field. “If you’re going to hit (Kershaw), this is probably the best place to do that. Yet, when he’s pitching, I usually feel good about the game.”
Still, Kershaw is a formidable opponent.
“Going against (Kershaw) is a good measuring stick for us,” Gibson added. “His work habits are outstanding his approach to the game reminds of the approach Goldschmidt takes. But, we’re ready for the challenge.”
Only 26 years old, Kershaw is already in remarkable company.
For pitchers who have started a minimum of 100 games and pitched at least 1,000 innings, Kershaw has the lowest career ERA since 1920. His 1.82 ERA is ahead of the next four by wide margin. The Yankees’ Whitey Ford (2.74) is listed second and followed by the Dodgers’ Sandy Koufax (2.76), the Yankees’ Spud Chandler (2.84) and Jim Palmer (2.86) of Baltimore.
As well, he stands sixth all-time on the Dodgers’ strike-out list and has sights set on Orel Hershiser (1,456). Coming into Wednesday’s game, Kershaw had struck out 1,390 batters. Don Sutton is tops on the Dodgers’ all-time list with 2,693.
Going forward and if Mattingly does not change his rotation, the Diamondbacks should get one more look this season at Kershaw. That would be Sunday September 7 at Dodger Stadium.