The contrast between Clayton Kershaw’s first two starts of 2021 is like night and day, and not just because of the time of game. The Dodgers left-hander was in full control on Tuesday night, pitching seven strong innings in a 5-1 win over the A’s in Oakland.
Though the A’s got to Kershaw right away, with consecutive doubles by Jed Lowrie and Ramon Laureano in the first inning giving Oakland a 1-0 — believe it or not, that was the A’s first lead all season, in their sixth game — that was the high point for the home team on Tuesday.
Working around those doubles, Kershaw struck out three batters in the first, and eight on the night, giving him 2,743 strikeouts in his career in the regular season and postseason combined, surpassing Don Sutton’s 2,739 for the most in Dodgers history.
After the two doubles, Kershaw retired 20 of his next 22 batters faced, allowing only a third-inning single by Jed Lowrie and a double off the wall by Stephen Piscotty with two outs in the seventh, the latter ending a string of 12 straight batters retired. Kershaw got through seven innings for the 191st time in 356 regular season starts.
Tuesday was a stark contrast from Kershaw’s opening day start, during which he allowed six runs. After that start in Colorado, manager Dave Roberts mentioned, “The slider just didn’t have the depth that it usually does.”
The slider on Tuesday was so deep, Dennis Miller referenced it in a rant.
Kershaw got 16 whiffs on the slider alone against the A’s, and 21 swings and misses overall, the latter his highest total since July 9, 2017.
The Dodgers answered Oakland’s run right away with the equalizer in the second inning, but took the lead for good on a pair of third-inning home runs, a two-run shot from Max Muncy and a solo job from Edwin Ríos.
For Muncy, it meant a return to where he made his major league debut, with the A’s at the Coliseum on April 25, 2015. But Muncy then was a much different player than Muncy now, and that’s reflected in the stats. In parts of two major league seasons with the A’s, Muncy hit .195/.290/.321 with five home runs in 96 games.
Since joining the Dodgers, Muncy has been one of the most potent power hitters in baseball, hitting .247/.374/.519 with 83 home runs in 342 games since the start of 2018. This was just his third career home run in 49 career games at the Coliseum.
“I don’t know if I can necessarily describe how it feels. You know, there wasn’t really a whole lot of good memories on the other side,” Muncy said Tuesday. “But this is where I made my debut, so that’s always going to be special to me. And I still have a lot of good relationships with the people up there.”
Home runs: Max Muncy (1), Edwin Ríos (1), Mookie Betts (1)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (1-1): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 8 strikeouts
LP — Chris Bassitt (0-2): 6 IP, 9 hits, 4 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
The Dodgers and A’s are back at it for an afternoon start on getaway day, with Trevor Bauer going for the sweep, against left-hander Jesus Luzardo in a 12:37 p.m. PT start.