It was the Braves’ turn to ride the carousel around the bases on Saturday, scoring five runs with two outs in the third inning of a 6-4 win over Clayton Kershaw and the Dodgers in the middle game of a weekend series at Truist Field in Atlanta.
Kershaw got through six innings for the fifth straight start, and struck out nine. Five of those innings on Saturday were scoreless, but the third inning was a doozy. With two outs and a runner on first base, Kershaw issued a seven pitch walk, his only one of the night, to Ronald Acuña Jr., and then the floodgates opened.
“You can’t do that,” Kershaw said of his walk to Acuña. “I was pitching him as tough as I could, but he’s a great hitter, obviously. With two outs, you don’t want to walk him to get to Freddie no matter what.”
Freddie Freeman singled home a run with a 96.4-mph that was the softest of the hard-hit parade. The next three hits all had exit velocities of at least 100 mph — a two-run double by Ozzie Albies, a single in the hole at shortstop by Austin Riley, and a two-run double by Dansby Swanson.
Five runs is the most Kershaw has allowed in an inning since the Marlins got him for five runs on April 26, 2016, when Giancarlo Stanton absolutely punished a baseball for a three-run home run at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw has allowed five runs in three of his last six starts, and since the start of May has a 5.26 ERA, though his FIP in that span is just 3.24 thanks to a 30.5-percent strikeout rate and mostly keeping the ball in the park. San Francisco also tagged Kershaw for five runs on Sunday, making this just the fourth time he’s allowed five runs in consecutive starts. The other three times came in Kershaw’s first four seasons.
“I’m just not pitching well,” Kershaw said. “I don’t know what to tell you.”
On offense, the Dodgers took advantage of a sloppy Braves defense a few times. They scored in the first inning without a hit, thanks to errors by Austin Riley and pitcher Charlie Morton. In the third, Los Angeles answered Atlanta’s five-run frame immediately with three runs in the top of the fourth, the third scoring after a throwing error by shortstop Dansby Swanson.
It was on that errant throw in the fourth that catcher Austin Barnes reached first base, but after eluding a tag by Freddie Freeman, Barnes rolled his ankle at the front of the bag. After several minutes with Dave Roberts and the team trainer, Barnes stayed in the game and even caught the rest of the way.
Roberts said Barnes suffered a mild ankle sprain that mostly affected him while hitting. In his only at-bat following the injury, Barnes hit a 94-mph grounder that ate up Swanson at shortstop, but he recovered to throw out Barnes at first.
Will Smith is expected to start at catcher on Sunday, but Barnes’ availability is unknown.
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Roberts said.
The fourth-inning rally pulled the Dodgers to within a run, and Morton was done after five. But despite reaching base in each of the first three innings against Atlanta’s bullpen — again with some help, with an error and a hit by pitch mixed in — the Dodgers were unable to score again.
- Kershaw began the night in 29th place on the all-time strikeout list, but ended up in 27th, now with 2,612 in his career. Kershaw passed Tom Glavine (2,607 strikeouts) in the fourth inning and Chuck Finley (2,610) in the fifth. Up next on the list is David Cone, in 26th place with 2,668 strikeouts.
- Much to the consternation of Riley and first base coach Eric Young Sr., Kershaw was not called for a balk for leaning toward home plate before throwing to first base in the second inning. Instead, it was Kershaw’s fourth pickoff of the season, his most since he picked off nine runners in 2015.
- We got another Will Smith vs. Will Smith matchup to start the ninth, with the Dodgers trailing by two. This time, the Braves pitcher prevailed with a three-pitch strikeout.
Home run: Abraham Almonte (1)
WP — Charlie Morton (5-2): 5 IP, 4 hits, 4 runs (2 earned), 1 walk, 5 strikeouts
LP — Clayton Kershaw (7-5): 6 IP, 8 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, 9 strikeouts
Sv — Will Smith (10): 1 IP, 3 strikeouts
Trevor Bauer starts Sunday morning’s series finale (10:20 a.m. PT; SportsNet LA, MLB Network), facing Atlanta left-hander Max Fried.