LOS ANGELES — The Dodgers’ late-season funk has gotten so bad, it even infected Clayton Kershaw, who pitched his shortest healthy start of the season in a 9-1 Rockies win in the opener of a four-game weekend series.
The losing skid has reached seven straight games for the Dodgers — their longest streak since an eight-game slide from May 1-10, 2013 — and 12 out of the last 13.
“Our guys are upset and frustrated, trying to figure out a way to win one game, when a few weeks ago it seemed like there was nothing we could do to lose a game,” said manager Dave Roberts.
Kershaw struggled with the strike zone pretty much all night.
After throwing three balls to just one batter — his final batter of the game — last Friday in San Diego, Kershaw got to a three-ball count to both Charlie Blackmon and DJ LeMahieu to start Thursday, and both Rockies singled. Nolan Arenado didn’t even get a chance to work the count because he jacked the first pitch he saw from Kershaw for a towering home into the back of the Dodgers bullpen for a 3-0 Colorado lead just three batters into the game.
“That first at-bat set the tone. Charlie Blackmon had a good at-bat, a seven-pitch single up the middle,” Roberts said. “With Arenado, he tries to go away with the fastball but it leaks to the middle and you’re down 3-0. It happened quickly.”
Arenado’s blast was just the third three-run home run allowed by Kershaw since the start of the 2013 season, joining Matt Adams (Game 4 of the 2014 NLDS) and Giancarlo Stanton (Apr. 26, 2016).
More rare wildness came in the second inning for Kershaw, with two walks — just the second time since the start of 2016 he walked two batters in an inning, joining May 6 in the eighth inning in San Diego — to load the bases for Mark Reynolds, who worked a full count before Kershaw struck him out to avoid further damage, other than a 27-pitch inning following his 28-pitch first frame.
On the night, Kershaw lasted just 3⅔ innings, needing 86 pitches to do so. His four runs allowed was one more than he gave up in his last seven starts, totaling 44 innings.
Kershaw walked three on the night, just the third time he has done so in his last 64 starts, dating back to 2015.
“Bad games are going to happen, pitching wise. I picked a really bad time to have a bad night.”
The Dodgers lost a Clayton Kershaw start for the first time since May 1, snapping a 16-game win streak in his outings.
“It’s bad right now, there’s no getting around that. When you compare it to the first half or first however many games we played, it’s a stark opposite,” Kershaw said. “If anything it doesn’t make this any easier, but we won so many games early we have a little bit of room here.
“We don’t think we’re a bad team. We won that many games in a row for a reason. We played that well for that long for a reason. But we’re not showing it right now, for sure.”
The Rockies added five runs off the Dodgers bullpen, putting the game away, but also providing exactly the low-leverage situation that Roberts wanted for Walker Buehler’s major league debut.
Buehler, the Dodgers’ first-round pick in 2015 and their top pitching prospect, entered in relief in the eighth inning, and hit 100 mph on his second major league pitch. Carlos Gonzalez singled in that at-bat, but was erased on a 3-6-1 double play.
Buehler pitched two scoreless innings, throwing 26 pitches in the process — 18 for strikes — with two strikeouts.
Blackmon, the National League leader with a .340 batting average, was Buehler’s first MLB strikeout, caught looking to open the ninth. Buehler followed that with a strikeout of Alexi Amarista swinging and a ground out to end his night.
Cody Bellinger doubled in the fourth inning, his 20th two-base hit of the season. That gave the Dodgers six players with 20 doubles, just two shy of the franchise record of eight, set in 1934 in Brooklyn and matched in 2002 in Los Angeles.
Yasiel Puig later followed with his 19th double of the season to score Bellinger. Others reasonably within striking distance of joining the doubles brigade include Joc Pederson (18), Chase Utley (16), Adrian Gonzalez (16), and Logan Forsythe (14).
Bellinger added his 21st double in the eighth inning.
Kershaw grounded out to third base in the third inning, but not before fouling off six pitches and running the count full. He saw 12 pitches in the at-bat, tied for the second-longest plate appearance by a Dodger in 2017. The only one longer was a 13-pitch walk by Kiké Hernandez on June 11.
The Diamondbacks were off on Thursday, so the Dodgers lost only a half-game on their National League West lead, now down to 10 games over Arizona. Friday counts as the third-best day for the Dodgers in the last 13 days — dating back to Aug. 26. The only days better were Aug. 28, when both teams were off, and Sept. 1, when both teams won.
It’s been a rough two weeks.
Home runs: Nolan Arenado (31), Carlos Gonzalez (9)
WP - Jon Gray (7-4): 6 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
LP - Clayton Kershaw (16-3): 3⅔ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 7 strikeouts