The Dodgers try to complete a sweep of the Rays on Sunday night and will turn to the man who started on the mound for the team's only two losses in their last 15 games. But not that those losses were Clayton Kershaw's fault, as he continues to have a brilliant season.
Kershaw enters Sunday with the major league lead in ERA at 1.91 and has allowed just two runs in 14 innings in his last two starts. But the Dodgers have lost both games thanks to poor run support.
But Kershaw, whose 7.26 innings per start is the highest by a Dodgers pitcher since Orel Hershiser, sat down with Hersisher in preparation for Sunday night's ESPN telecast. Kershaw isn't concerned about his relatively low win total (he's 10-7).
"Going deep into the game is huge. That's the most important thing for me. I don't look at any stats or anything like that, but if you're going seven, eight, nine innings, you're giving your team a chance. That's really all that I'm trying to do," Kershaw said. "All the other stuff will take care of itself. The way to do that is to have a low pitch count, and the only way to do that is throw strikes. It's a trickle down effect. So for me, it's just trying to get to that eight or ninth inning every time out."
Kershaw is trying to become the first player to lead the major leagues in ERA for three straight seasons since Greg Maddux in 1993-1995, and credits his efficiency with his success the last three years.
"In 2011 I started throwing a lot more strikes, started going deeper into games. I started throwing breaking balls for strikes, things like that," Kershaw told Hershiser. "It's just simple things, but over time it makes a big difference in a season, and I've just carried that over into the last few seasons."
Kershaw was also the subject of a Sunday feature by J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News, who compared the southpaw to Michaelangelo:
To understand where he's coming from, try putting Kershaw's 2013 season in the context of other masterpieces rather than other pitching performances. Ask Michelangelo how the Sistine Chapel ceiling looked after he painted the flood scene and before he painted God in the act of creation. That's the idea.
Yet anyone with two eyes -- especially if they belong to a hitter with buckling knees and flailing hands in the presence of a Kershaw curveball -- can see that something special is in progress. Ignore the wins and losses, and this could be the best of Kershaw's six seasons in the major leagues.
Time: 5:05 p.m.