One of the largest pitching mismatches of the season did not turn out as expected, with rookie Nick Pivetta out-dueling Clayton Kershaw on Monday night, lifting the Phillies to a 4-3 win over the Dodgers in the opener of a four-game series at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.
The loss lowered the Dodgers’ lead in the National League West to nine games over the Diamondbacks, with Arizona playing Monday night in San Diego. The magic number to clinch the division remains four.
Kershaw was breezing through five innings, allowing just two singles, one an infield bouncer that deflected off his glove. But a leadoff walk to pinch-hitter Ty Kelly — a .200/.260/.353 hitter in 100 plate appearances entering Monday — proved a harbinger of doom.
A broken-bat single with one out by Freddy Galvis was followed by a two-out walk to red-hot rookie Rhys Hoskins to load the bases. All that stood in the way of getting out of the inning was Aaron Altherr, but a Kershaw slider that didn’t slide was instead deposited into the second deck in left field, turning the game around.
Down a pair, the Phillies were now up two runs thanks to the first grand slam Kershaw has allowed in his career, in his 1,923rd career inning.
The slam snapped a streak of 32 consecutive scoreless innings for Kershaw against the Phillies, his first runs allowed to Philadelphia since July 18, 2012, when Carlos Ruiz singled home Shane Victorino in the fourth inning at Dodger Stadium.
That the Dodgers only had two runs when Altherr hit the home run was a bit of a surprise, for a few reasons.
Pivetta brought a 6.75 ERA into Monday night’s contest, ranking dead last among the 126 major league pitchers with at least 100 innings in 2017.
That ERA looked like it would go up on Monday, with Chris Taylor and Justin Turner each hitting home runs within the game’s first five pitches. Taylor’s was hit 390 feet but never cleared the fence, the club’s first inside-the-park home run since 2011.
Turner’s did clear the wall, in left field, but traveled 358 feet, 32 feet shorter than Taylor’s home run.
Since 1958 the Dodgers have started only 1 other game w/ B2B HRs. Tom Goodwin/Mark Grudzielanek vs ARI, Apr 5 2001.https://t.co/nuKIzz4n6C— Doug Kern (@dakern74) September 19, 2017
But after the two home runs to open the game, Pivetta retired 17 of his 21 batters faced, and no more runs. The rookie right-hander struck out eight, lowering his ERA to 6.57.
Taylor, who was hitless in his last 15 at-bats entering Monday and hitting just .190/.215/.270 in his first 16 games in September, was 2-for-3 with a walk in the series opener.
Curtis Granderson hit a solo home run to pull within one in the ninth inning — the fourth home run the Dodgers hit in two games against Phillies closer Hector Neris this season — but couldn’t push across the equalizer.
Yu Darvish gets the start for the Dodgers on Tuesday, another 4:05 p.m. PT start, facing Aaron Nola for the Phillies.
Home runs: Chris Taylor (20), Justin Turner (21), Curtis Granderson (24); Aaron Altherr (17)
WP - Nick Pivetta (6-10): 6 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (17-4): 6 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts
Sv - Hector Neris (22): 1 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 3 strikeouts