Clayton Kershaw pitched another good game tonight, but Ryan Dempster was better, leading the Cubs to a 3-0 win in the opener of a three-game set at Wrigley Field. Dempster pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing only four baserunners while striking out seven, and retired the final 13 batters he faced.
Kershaw continued his hot streak, allowing only an unearned run in six innings, and he walked just two batters for the third straight start. Since giving up seven runs in 1 1/3 innings to Milwaukee on May 4, Kershaw has walked 11 batters and allowed two earned runs over 28 1/3 innings while striking out 27. The 28 1/3 innings is the most innings of any four-start stretch of Kershaw's career, surpassing a 27-inning stretch he had last July.
However, Kershaw was plagued tonight by foul balls, as the Cubs fouled off 30 of his 104 pitches, including 15 foul balls in fourth inning alone. During that inning, Kershaw threw just five balls in 28 pitches, but the foul balls led to a high pitch count and a six-inning outing, which now qualifies as a short start for Clayton.
The only run Kershaw allowed came after a booted ground ball by Rafael Furcal, a dropped pitch by Russell Martin on a stolen base, and an RBI single by Derrek Lee. Furcal, in his first game back from the disabled list, had a rough night defensively, as he was charged with two errors. His second error was on a low throw, though it probably should have been caught by James Loney. However, on another play Dempster reached base on an infield single up the middle on a play Furcal usually makes.
Ramon Troncoso continued his struggles, allowing his fourth home run in his last three appearances. Keep in mind, Troncoso is a ground ball specialist who allowed three home runs in 82 2/3 innings all of last season. Ken Gurnick of MLB.com reported before the game that Troncoso had found a flaw in his delivery, but Derrek Lee's opposite field home run suggest otherwise.
- Tonight was the first game in major league history featuring two players named Xavier, and both happened to be playing the same position -- right field -- Xavier Paul for the Dodgers and Xavier Nady for the Cubs
- Clayton Kershaw in his career has pitched 11 games of six innings or more while giving up no earned runs, yet only has four wins to show for it. From 2008 through yesterday, MLB pitchers got a win in 846 of 1,086 such games (78%).
- Blake DeWitt committed a fielding error in the eighth inning, and on his throw to first base James Loney was shaken up on the play. Marlon Byrd was running hard down the line, and collided with Loney as the throw arrived, hitting Loney's head and elbow. Loney was on the ground for a moment as Russell Martin backed up the play, keeping Byrd from advancing to second base, but Loney did remain in the game.
- Manager Joe Torre said the fifth starter will pitch Friday in Colorado, giving Hiroki Kuroda an extra day of rest before his scheduled Saturday start. Gurnick speculates that James McDonald is a candidate for that start, but we will know more by tomorrow night, as McDonald is the scheduled starter for Albuquerque. A Friday start effectively rules out Charlie Haeger, who is eligible to come off the disabled list but would be pitching on three days rest on Friday
Chad Billingsley faces Tom Gorzelanny in the second game of the series tomorrow night.
WP - Ryan Dempster (3-4): 8 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (4-3): 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 unearned run, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv - Carlos Marmol (10): 1 IP, 2 strikeouts