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Clayton Kershaw & Great Expectations

Clayton Kershaw was mortal on Friday night. Should the Dodgers be worried?
Clayton Kershaw was mortal on Friday night. Should the Dodgers be worried?

Do we expect too much from Clayton Kershaw?

The left-hander allowed five runs in six innings on Friday and might have been hung with his third straight home loss were it not for a five-run rally by the Dodgers in their 7-6 comeback win over the White Sox on Friday night at Dodger Stadium.

"Wow, our team is unbelievable right now. Just picking everybody up like that, it's really fun to be a part of. It seems like there is a different guy every night; Elian Herrera tonight with some huge hits, Ivan De Jesus with that pinch hit," Kershaw said after the game. "It's unbelievable the guys we're getting contributions from. They picked me up tonight. It was awesome."

Since shutting out the Cardinals on May 19, Kershaw has a 4.68 ERA in five starts, though he also has 37 strikeouts and 11 walks in 32 2/3 innings during that span.

"He works in between as hard as anyone we have," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "Right now it seems like when he makes a mistake, they're capitalizing on it."

Kershaw has also been dealing with plantar fasciitis in his left foot for a few weeks, a condition he insists only affects him when running and not while pitching.

"It's fine, it's not affecting me," Kershaw said. "I just made a lot of mistakes tonight."

"It's somewhat coincidental that during this stretch that's happened," Honeycutt said. "I do not see it changing his mechanics or his delivery, but to say that there is not a pitch or sometime during the game that he feels something, I can only go by what he tells me."

As for Friday night, there was a difference of opinion as to the cause of Kershaw's poor outing.

"It didn't look like he got his off speed over," said manager Don Mattingly. "If you don't get your breaking ball over, guys are going to start zoning in on one pitch."

"The last few starts his curve ball has been coming in, and I thought he threw some good changeups. Tonight his other secondary pitches weren't there for him to go with his fastball," said Honeycutt.

But Kershaw disagreed.

"I think once I got to 0-2, and when I was ahead in the count, I didn't execute the way I wanted to," Kershaw said. "I don't think it had to do with getting breaking balls over early."

Through 65 team games Kershaw has made 14 starts this year, as he did at the same point last season.

Clayton Kershaw Through 14 Starts
2011 6-3 91.2 76 35 35 7 29 102 3.44 1.145
2012 5-3 94.1 75 33 30 10 23 88 2.86 1.039

All together, both starts are fairly similar. Kershaw's home runs are up and his strikeouts are down, but his walks are also down and he's pitching deeper into starts this season. In 2011, Kershaw was 15-2 with a 1.52 ERA over his final 19 starts. Perhaps that was what shifted our assumptions to what Kershaw's performance should be, which isn't really fair to him.

"Expectations sometimes get a little out of hand too," warned Honeycutt. "Expecting what he did the second half of last year can be unrealistic."

It's a long season, and there will be bumps along the road. It can be as unpleasant as walking or running with a sore left foot. But eventually, by continuing to move forward, the ride just might be smoother.

Up Next

The Dodgers look for their second straight win over the White Sox on Saturday night, with Chad BIllingsley taking the hill with two consecutive strong starts under his belt. Philip Humber, who threw the other perfect game this season, starts for the White Sox.