Fighting through a back injury and a dip in velocity through a big portion of the season, Clayton Kershaw has been fighting to get back to his standard of pitching. Getting stronger with each start since returning from the DL June 23, Kershaw turned in one of his strongest starts of the year.
Kershaw reached base all four times he came to the plate Friday, walking three times for the first time in his career. But the more important part of his night with a bat came in the fourth inning when he drilled a two-run double down the left field line.
Moments before the double, third base coach Chris Woodward elected not to send Matt Kemp from third on a fly ball to left field. The gamble paid off when Kershaw smacked a 96-mph fastball to bring Kemp and Chris Taylor home, giving the Dodgers the 4-1 lead that held up.
As the game made it’s way to the bottom of the eighth, there was a real possibility that Kershaw would go the distance after only 81 pitches through seven.
A seven-pitch single for Dansby Swanson didn’t deter Kershaw from striking out the next two hitters to come within an out of eight innings, the deepest start all year. But four pitches later, an Ozzie Albies single brought manager Dave Roberts out with a hook to bring Kenley Jansen into the game to face Freddie Freeman, representing the tying run.
It took Jansen one pitch to get Freeman to fly out to Cody Bellinger in center to send the game to the ninth. The big man cruised through the ninth, striking out two to nail down the win for Los Angeles.
Friday was only the eighth time in 37 games all year the Dodgers came away winners after the opponent scored first. The Braves opened the scoring in the second inning on Ender Inciarte’s run-scoring groundout.
The Dodgers got the run right back in the third when Alex Verdugo led off the inning with a towering solo shot to straightaway center. It was the first homer of the year for Verdugo and just the second in his brief 29-game career.
The runs would continue in the fourth as the Dodgers jumped on Braves’ starter Mike Foltynewicz for three. Yasmani Grandal continued his scorching hot July with his 17th homer to put the Dodgers on top. It would be five hitters later when Kershaw came up with his big hit.
Clayton Kershaw is doing it all tonight!— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) July 28, 2018
Players with 3+ BB & 1+ H as a batter and 8+ K as a pitcher in a game - live-ball era:
Robin Roberts (4/30/1950)
Whitey Ford (4/22/1959)
Clayton Kershaw (tonight) pic.twitter.com/MkqjrnDoSe
Back on track
Over his past six starts, Kershaw has struck out 34 batters and walked just five. Over that same time, Kershaw has been walked five times.
Kershaw ends his July — a month where he has thrived over his entire career — going 3-1 with a 1.95 ERA, striking out 28.
#Dodgers Matt Kemp on Clayton Kershaw returning from DL: "He's getting better each time out. He had a nick and nack early in the year. But he's the best pitcher in baseball. He was going to get it back."— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) July 28, 2018
The Dodgers and Braves continue into the weekend with Alex Wood (6-5, 3.87) facing off with Max Fried (1-3, 3.92).
Home runs: Verdugo (1), Grandal (17)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (4-5): 7 2⁄3 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts
LP - Mike Foltynewicz (7-7): 5 IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 8 strikeouts
SV - Kenley Jansen (30): 1 1⁄3 IP, 2 strikeouts