After a rare off day for Clayton Kershaw, we start May off strong, with a four-start opener, spread over 10 seasons. All four were one-run games.
Up first is May 1, 2009, with the Dodgers at home against the Padres, the second game of a long weekend series. This was when the Dodgers set a team record by winning their first 13 games at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw only struck out three, but was able to hold the Padres at bay. From my game recap:
He pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing only six baserunners while striking out three. Said Kershaw in a postgame interview on Prime Ticket:
“It was just one of those nights where I didn’t have great velocity, so I had to focus a little bit more on command tonight, and it probably helped me out in the long run.”
But Jake Peavy was better, pitching eight scoreless innings, striking out eight for the Padres. The game remained scoreless until the ninth, when Russell Martin delivered the walk-off walk against old friend Duaner Sanchez for a 1-0 win.
Seven years later, Kershaw again started against the Padres on May 1, also at Dodger Stadium. He was involved in just about every aspect of this game, even singling home battery mate A.J. Ellis, who doubled, in the third inning. That run proved huge. From Craig Minami’s Sunday afternoon game recap:
By the time the game ended, all Kershaw did was pitch a complete game 1-0 shutout to end the Dodgers six-game losing streak. Kershaw also drove in the one run that was plated in this game.
Kershaw allowed three hits and struck out 14 while walking none. This was his 15th game with double-digit strikeouts and no walks.
Three players appeared in both of these 1-0 games in 2009 and 2016. Besides Kershaw, Adrian Gonzalez and Matt Kemp started in both games, but for different teams. Kershaw’s 14th strikeout — Jon Jay in the ninth inning — was his 1,800th in his career.
In 2017, the Dodgers were again home on May 1, with Kershaw on the mound to open a series against the Giants and Johnny Cueto. Just three batters into the game, Hunter Pence deposited a two-run home run in left field, which was very notable. From my game recap:
“Tonight, the late depth, the late bite or life to the slider that wasn’t there, uncharacteristic,” manager Dave Roberts said. “There were some sliders that were elevated. For the most part, that’s a pitch he can count on.”
With one out in the first inning, Pence deposited a curve ball from Kershaw into the left field pavilion for a quick 2-0 lead. Pence entered Monday just 7-for-70 (.100) in his career against Kershaw, with one walk, 17 strikeouts, and no extra-base hits.
Pence has faced Kershaw more than any other batter except Buster Posey, and after those 71 plate appearances with no extra base hits, Pence beginning with this homer is 11 for his last 19 (.579) against Kershaw, with three doubles. They haven’t faced each other since 2018.
Kershaw tied the game with an RBI single in the second inning, but Posey took Kershaw deep in the next frame to give the Giants a lead they would never relinquish. Kershaw pitched six innings, allowing four runs for the loss, snapping a streak of 11 straight Dodgers wins in Kershaw home starts.
In 2018, Kershaw made another May 1 start, this time on the road against the Diamondbacks in Phoenix. He did well, allowing a pair of runs in six innings, but the lead was blown by a struggling bullpen I called “a festering sore” in the game recap, thanks to their 8.49 ERA over the previous eight games. This was already the third time Kershaw faced Arizona that season, providing this tidbit from the recap:
He allowed two runs, on solo home runs by the red-hot A.J. Pollock and pinch-hitter Christian Walker. On the season Kershaw has allowed five runs in three starts against Arizona, and all the runs have come on solo homers, hit by five different Diamondbacks.
After this game, the Dodgers were 12-17 and trailed the Diamondbacks by nine games.
In these four May 1 starts, Kershaw has a 1.61 ERA with 28 strikeouts and three walks in 28 innings.
2009: 7 IP, 4 hits, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts
2016 (W, 3-1): 9 IP, 3 hits, 14 strikeouts
2017 (L, 4-2): 6 IP, 8 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 5 strikeouts
2018: 6 IP, 6 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
Up next: Two Kershaw starts on May 2