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Clayton Kershaw day by day: Jackie Robinson Day

All five Kershaw starts on April 15

Cincinnati Reds v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

We’ve reached our busiest date yet in our Clayton Kershaw project, with five total starts on April 15. It’s a day of tradition, with all five starts hosted at Dodger Stadium on Jackie Robinson Day, all five Dodgers wins, and Kershaw pitching exactly seven innings 80 percent of the time. We even take a tour of the current National League West, as well as an old division member.

First up was 2009, when a 21-year-old Kershaw struck out 13 Giants in seven innings. He faced only 22 batters in seven innings, and his only hit allowed was a Bengie Molina home run. From my game recap:

Kershaw sadly wasn’t rewarded with a win, but he and Chad Billingsley are the first Dodgers to strike out ten or more batters in back-to-back games since Kevin Brown and Chan Ho Park in September 2000. They are the first Dodger duo 25 and under to do so since Stan Williams and Sandy Koufax in September 1961.

The bullpen blew Kershaw’s lead in the eighth inning, but James Loney drew a walk-off walk in the ninth.

From Kershaw’s 23rd career start, we go to his 119th start, in 2012 against the Padres. Coincidentally, this game will be rebroadcast today at noon on MLB Network.

Buoyed by a Matt Kemp home run early, the Dodgers built a 4-1 lead. But San Diego rallied for a run against Kershaw in the sixth, then chased him with the bases loaded. An ensuing single against reliever Josh Lindblom tied the game. From my game recap:

Clayton Kershaw wasn’t his sharpest, allowing eight hits, but through five innings had only allowed one unearned run. Up to that point, Kershaw had one walk in 15 innings this season, but he issued three walks to five batters in the top of the sixth. A potential inning-ending double play ball off the bat of Orlando Hudson was hit to Dee Gordon at shortstop, but the ball bounced off Gordon’s glove into left field and was somehow scored a hit rather than Gordon’s second error of the day.

At 5⅓ innings, this is the shortest of Kershaw’s five April 15 starts. Dee Gordon won this game with a walk-off single in the ninth.

In 2016 the Dodgers hosted the Giants in a game mostly known for Kiké Hernandez hitting two home runs and a double in three at-bats against Madison Bumgarner. That gave the Dodgers a big lead, and a win for Kershaw.

Kershaw allowed only five singles, but they were bunched up enough to allow three runs in his seven innings, striking out six. It was also a little quirky. From my game recap:

The first two Giants runs scored on wild pitches, or at least pitches that were scored wild pitches, then Hunter Pence shook off his 5-for-60 career mark against Kershaw for an RBI single in the sixth inning.

That was Kershaw’s 245th career start. Up next was his 294th start, in 2018. This was against the Diamondbacks, and Kershaw entered with a 1.89 ERA in three starts, but with an 0-2 record. He got rid of the bagel in the win column thanks to 12 strikeouts in seven innings.

The 7-2 Dodgers win snapped a three-game losing streak, and halted an 11-game losing streak to Arizona (in the regular season; the NLDS says hello) dating back to 2017. From Craig Minami’s game recap:

“The whole ‘don’t panic thing because its too early’ thing doesn’t work if you are using that in the back of your mind as an excuse,” Kershaw said, “ ‘it’s early, we’ll figure it out’ doesn’t really work cause then you got to figure it out at some point.”

Our last April 15 for Kershaw came just last year, hosting the Reds. It was Kershaw’s first start of the season after opening on the injured list with left shoulder inflammation.

Old friend Yasiel Puig, in his first at-bat back at Dodger Stadium since getting traded away to Cincinnati, slammed a two-run homer off Kershaw in the first inning. Kershaw settled down, allowing only three singles the rest of the way, and struck out six and walked none in his seven innings.

Down 3-2 in the ninth inning, David Freese walked and Joc Pederson followed with a two-run, walk-off home run, the first of 12 Dodgers walk-off wins in 2019.

Kershaw in these five April 15 starts combined for a 2.43 ERA in 33⅓ IP, with four walks and 40 strikeouts. Amazingly enough, there are more dates coming on which Kershaw made more starts.

The outings

2009: 7 IP, 1 hit, 1 run, 1 walk, 13 strikeouts

2012: 5⅓ IP, 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 3 walks, 3 strikeouts

2016 (W, 2-0): 7 IP, 5 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 6 strikeouts

2018 (W, 1-2): 7 IP, 2 hits, 1 run, 12 strikeouts

2019: 7 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 strikeouts

Up next: Back to a single-start day, April 16