Who knew a nine-strikeout performance by Clayton Kershaw would be so disappointing? Well, it was tonight, thanks to a very poor second inning marred by wildness and poor pitching by Kershaw, as Arizona cruised to a 4-1 victory in the opening game of a three-game series in Phoenix.
Kershaw's second inning consisted of 35 pitches, which included three walks and two wild pitches and most of the damage was done by the bottom of the Diamondbacks' lineup. The key matchups of the inning were with Dan Haren and Stephen Drew. Kershaw hung a 1-2 curveball that Haren lined for an RBI single to make it 3-0, and two wild pitches during Drew's plate appearance brought home the fourth and final run of the inning.
With an inflated pitch count -- and not just the second inning; Kershaw threw 16, 17, and 18 pitches in the first, third, and fourth innings respectively -- Kershaw was removed after only pitching 4.1 innings because his pitch count was already at 97. Kershaw ended up with nine strikeouts on the evening, and only gave up three hits and a walk outside of his Waterloo inning.
Haren was very good all night, keeping the Dodgers at bay, throwing 106 pitches in eight innings of work. Matt Kemp touched him up for a solo home run in the fifth inning, but that would be the only run the Dodgers would score. Manny Ramirez was locked in all night, however, as he had two singles and a double in four at-bats.
Manny's lone out on the evening was a few feet away from pulling the Dodgers to within a run in the eighth inning. In the bottom of the seventh, Ronald Belisario hit Mark Reynolds with a 94-mph fastball in the back, and the Dodgers were almost able to capitalize on what was clear retaliation by Haren in the top of the eighth. With two outs and nobody on, Haren fired a 91-mph fastball into Andre Ethier's back, bringing up Manny with a runner on base. Ramirez lined yet another rocket to left, but it was caught by Trent Oeltjen at the wall to end the inning.
Home plate umpire Jerry Layne deserves credit for not letting the situation get out of hand, issuing a warning after Haren's HBP. There was no need for a quick ejection there. I'm sure Arizona thought Belisario's HBP of Reynolds was intentional too, so the Dodgers had to be expecting something. By issuing the warning after the second HBP, both sides are "even" or at least should feel that way. Time to put this all behind us and play some baseball.
The Dodgers had their chances against Haren, putting runners on base in each of the last six innings. Manny's double in the sixth was also nearly a home run, hitting off the wall, but he ended up stranded on base when James Loney grounded into an inning-ending double play. Loney, who went 0 for 4 tonight, has just three hits in his last 32 at-bats.
WP - Dan Haren (12-7): 8 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (8-7): 4.1 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 9 strikeouts
Sv - Chad Qualls (22): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout