SAN DIEGO — Clayton Kershaw said he was ready to pitch in the majors a few weeks ago. On Friday night, it looked like he never left. The Dodgers ace pitched six scoreless innings in a 1-0 win over the Padres in Friday night at Petco Park.
Kershaw hadn’t pitched in the majors in 40 days, sidelined with lower back tightness. There was some rust expected given his admittedly prolonged layoff.
“Kersh has been chomping at the bit to get back,” manager Dave Roberts said before the game. “I don’t expect him to be on point all night long, but I expect him to compete.”
Kershaw was on point all night long.
He struck out seven in his six scoreless innings. Kershaw allowed two hits, both of the infield variety — though if we are being technical shortstop Chris Taylor fielded Yangervis Solarte’s single on the outfield grass.
The only other ball that came close to being hit out of the infield was a pop up by Manuel Margot in the sixth inning that first baseman Cody Bellinger caught along the short wall in foul territory just behind first base.
Kershaw was efficient all night, throwing 53 of his 70 pitches (75.7 percent) for strikes. His only three-ball count of the night was to his final batter faced, Carlos Asuaje in the sixth inning. Asuaje grounded out to shortstop, one of 11 ground balls induced by Kershaw on the night.
“Efficiency wise, I think it was as good as I could have expected or hoped,” Kershaw said. “Tonight was definitely a good step in the right direction.”
Kershaw’s loose baseline of a pitch limit on Friday was 75 pitches and five innings, but given his low pitch count he was able to pitch the sixth. Roberts said there was no consideration to letting Kershaw pitch the seventh.
The limit for Kershaw will increase his next time out.
“Within reason there are some limitations, but that 90-pitch mark is probably something we’ll talk through,” Roberts said. “That’s a good marker.”
Dinelson Lamet wasn’t quite as efficient, but he was just as effective for the Padres. The 25-year-old rookie struck out 10 on the night, and held the Dodgers at bay for the first five innings.
In the sixth inning, the Dodgers finally pushed across a run, thanks to singles by Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, and Chase Utley, the latter with two outs to score the game’s lone run.
The Dodgers bullpen picked up right where Kershaw left off, with Brandon Morrow, Tony Watson, and Kenley Jansen combining to retire all nine batters they faced, including six by strikeout.
Dodgers pitchers retired the final 15 Padres batters of the game.
No Dodgers outfielder touched a ball on defense all night, including Alex Verdugo making his major league debut in center field.
“I was wondering with Verdugo, waiting for him to make a play,” Roberts said with a smile.
If the shoes fit
Jansen walked into the visitors clubhouse at Petco Park several hours before Friday’s game, telling anyone who would listen that he was going to pitch in the series opener, regardless of the score. He last pitched on Sunday.
"He made me promise to get him in there tonight,” Roberts said with a laugh before the game.
But Jansen was more excited about the gold Air Jordan cleats he was carrying. He wore them in the game as well, then retired the side in order in the ninth inning.
Asked if Jansen might get fined by MLB for his shoes, Roberts quipped, “He can afford it.”
Turner also wore memorable shoes on Friday, sporting white cleats as part of MLB’s childhood cancer awareness month in September.
Turner was 3-for-4 with a double, and scored the game’s only run.
Andre Ethier pinch hit for Kershaw in the seventh inning. Ethier grounded out in his 2017 debut, but has now appeared in a game in 12 different seasons for the Dodgers. Since the franchise moved to Los Angeles in 1958, only ... have played in more seasons with the club — Bill Russell (18), Don Sutton (16), Willie Davis (14), Steve Garvey (14), Steve Yeager (14), Manny Mota (13), Mike Scioscia (13) and Orel Hershiser (13).
Two games are on the docket on Saturday, a doubleheader thanks to a rain out on May 7. Brock Stewart and Clayton Richard will face off in the day game, a 12:40 p.m. PT start, while Yu Darvish and Jordan Lyles toe the rubber in the 7:10 p.m. nightcap.
Home runs: none
WP - Clayton Kershaw (16-2): 6 IP, 2 hits, 7 strikeouts
LP - Dinelson Lamet (7-6): 6 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 3 walks, 10 strikeouts
Sv - Kenley Jansen (36): 1 IP, 1 strikeout