We are back to another heavy start day for Clayton Kershaw, with a whopping five starts on April 21. That matches his April 15 for most starts so far on the calendar. Don’t worry, there are more prolific dates coming. But for now, let’s remember these five starts.
Up first is April 21, 2009, with the Dodgers starting a road trip in Houston against the Astros.
The Dodgers staked Kershaw to a 3-0 lead before Kershaw took the mound in this one, including RBI singles by Manny Ramirez and Russell Martin. But that lead was gone by the third inning, when Carlos Lee hit a two-run home run. A two-run single by Miguel Tejada in the fourth widened the gap, and Kershaw was done just one out into the fifth, allowing six runs.
Phil Gurnee (!!) in his game recap said “Kershaw was as ineffective as he’s ever been in his short career.”
The loss gave Kershaw a 4.28 career ERA in 24 starts (25 games) and a 5-6 career record. It also dropped the 2009 Dodgers to 4-4 on the road, notable because they were 6-0 at home at the time, and would win their first 13 games at Dodger Stadium that season.
Fast forward to two years later, and the Dodgers flashed back, wearing powder blue Brooklyn throwback uniforms in a Thursday afternoon game against the Braves at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw allowed only two hits through eight innings, and entered the ninth at 99 pitches with a 2-1 lead. From my game recap:
Kershaw retired the first two batters of the ninth inning, but the Braves scrambled with two hits and a walk to load the bases. With Jonathan Broxton ready and warmed in the bullpen, up 2-1 with the bases loaded and two outs, and Kershaw at 119 pitches, Don Mattingly went to the mound, but much to everyone’s surprise Kershaw remained in the game.
At that point, the choice was basically Kershaw vs. the right-handed David Ross, or Broxton vs. the left-handed Brian McCann, who would have likely pinch hit had a pitching change been made. Then, on an 0-2 pitch, Ross blooped a single to left field, scoring two runs and giving the Braves a 3-2 lead.
The Dodgers rallied to tie in the ninth, then Matt Kemp ended things with a two-run walk-off home run in the 11th.
Kershaw allowed just three hits and one unintentional walk in his seven scoreless innings, and picked up his first win of the season. He struck out nine on the night, and lowered his ERA on the season to just 1.61. At 105 pitches and with a 3-0 lead, Kershaw even batted for himself in the eighth inning, though a prolonged inning and a few extra Dodgers runs ensured Kershaw didn’t go back out on the mound.
The Dodgers prevailed 5-1 against the Astros, then a National League team, in Kershaw’s 120th career start. Four years later, Kershaw made his 246th career start on a getaway Thursday in Atlanta.
Kershaw got a no-decision in this start, though he was stingy. He allowed 10 hits but lasted eight innings, striking out 10. This was also the day Prince died, which was reflected in my game recap:
The first two batters of the game against Clayton Kershaw doubled for a run, and the first seven hitters were 5-for-7, but somehow the Dodgers ace managed to last eight innings, the first time in his career Kershaw has lasted at least seven innings in each of his first four starts of the season.
Maybe Kershaw is just too demanding.
The game was 1-1 into extras, when Kike Hernandez singled in the 10th inning and scored on a double by Yasmani Grandal.
Kershaw’s most recent start on April 21 came last year in Milwaukee, when more Dodgers late-inning offense would earn them a win. Cody Bellinger hit a game-winning home run against Josh Hader last year on this date to beat the Brewers.
Bellinger had to break a tie because Eric Thames hit a three-run home run in the eighth inning against Kenley Jansen, negating the lead that Kershaw left with after six innings in his second start of the year.
From Blake Harris’ game recap:
He held the Brewers hitless through the first four, before allowing two runs in the fifth. He struck out seven, a season-high, though he allowed four walks.
Kershaw’s totals for these five starts on April 21 are 36 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34 innings, with a 3.00 ERA.
2009 (L, 0-1): 4⅓ IP, 8 hit, 6 runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
2011: 8⅔ IP, 5 hits, 3 run, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
2012 (W, 1-0): 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
2016: 8 IP, 10 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
2019: 6 IP, 2 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 7 strikeouts
Up next: Just one start for April 22