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Clayton Kershaw lasting deeper into games than ever before

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The Dodgers remain in dire need of more innings from their starting pitchers, and on Sunday is their best chance to get them, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound against the Pirates on Sunday Night Baseball on ESPN.

Kenta Maeda did not record an out in the sixth inning in Saturday's loss, and the club has gotten 14 total innings out its starting pitchers over the last three games.

Enter Kershaw, who leads the majors with 115 innings pitched in 2016, averaging exactly 7⅔ innings per start so far on the season. He is one of only three players to average at least seven innings per start this year, ahead of Johnny Cueto (7.29) and Chris Sale (7.00).

Only three major league pitchers since 2000 have averaged at least 7.5 innings per startJames Shields (7.56) in 2011, Roy Halladay (7.60) and Cliff Lee (7.58) in 2010.

Being efficient helps, with Kershaw averaging 105 pitches per start (he averaged 104 pitches from 2010-2015), and topping 110 pitches only three times in 15 starts in 2016.

Averaging seven innings per start is nothing new for Kershaw; he has done so in four of the last five seasons, only missing out in 2012 when he stayed in the game 6.90 innings on average during the year. That figure was tied for eighth in baseball in 2012, but every year since Kershaw has led the majors in innings per start.

He has 115 innings on the season in 2016. He also had a 15-start stretch with exactly 115 innings last season, from June 27 to Sept. 29. In the last calendar year, Kershaw has averaged 7.51 innings per start in 33 starts, and that counts his planned short outing on the final day of the 2015 regular season that saw him pitch only 3⅔ innings. Remove that game, and Kershaw has averaged 7.63 innings in his last 32 real starts.

Before Kershaw averaged 7.07 innings per start in 2011, the last Dodgers pitcher to average seven innings in a season (miimum 20 starts) was Kevin Brown way back in 1999.

But this year Kershaw has been at peak efficiency to date, averaging roughly a third of an inning longer than his previous high of 7.35 inning per start in his MVP season in 2014.

No Dodgers pitcher has averaged 7.5 innings per start in a season (minimum 20 starts) since Orel Hershiser in 1989. You have to go back one more year to find the last Dodger to average over a season what Kershaw has done so far this year, with Hershiser averaging 7.82 innings per start in his Cy Young season.

Since 1980, the only Dodgers to average 7.5 innings per start were Hershiser in those two seasons and Fernando Valenzuela in five of his first six seasons. Valenzuela's usage was legendary, averaging 7.64 innings per start (essentially what Kershaw is doing so far in 2016) over his first seven seasons (1981-87).

It was a different time.

In 1986, National League starting pitchers as a whole averaged 6.18 innings per start, with a complete game in 11.6 percent of starts. Pitchers lasted at last seven innings in 42.3 percent of their starts.

Thirty years later, the NL average is 5.77 innings per start, with a complete game in 1.7 percent of those starts. In 2016, NL pitchers have lasted seven innings in 25.3 percent of their starts.

Kershaw this season has lasted at least seven innings in 14 of his 15 starts (93.3 percent), and in his other start he went six innings. A true throwback.

Game info

Time: 5:08 p.m. PT

TV: ESPN