Clayton Kershaw was infinitely better than his last Wrigley Field start, pitching seven scoreless innings. His battery mate Austin Barnes homered and drove in three runs to keep the Dodgers in complete control of a 7-0 win over the Cubs in the opener of a doubleheader on Saturday at Wrigley Field in Chicago.
Kershaw in an in-game interview during SportsNet LA’s broadcast of Wednesday’s home game against the Giants said Wrigley Field was one of his least favorite parks in which to pitch. Perhaps last year’s Chicago start was still fresh in his mind, when he allowed four runs and recorded only three outs in the shortest start of his career.
On Saturday, Kershaw was much more efficient, needing only 81 pitches to get through seven innings. Last year in that doubleheader opener, Kershaw allowed six batters to reach base. He did the same on Saturday, but none scored.
Kershaw only struck out two, but the Cubs were swinging early and often. Kershaw threw 72-percent strikes, got a lot of ground balls, saw some hard-hit liners find gloves, and got a little help on the bases, too.
Seiya Suzuki walked in the first inning against Kershaw, then two pitches later got picked off to end the inning. In the second inning, Nico Hoerner beat out a ground ball to shortstop, but must have thought Trea Turner’s errant throw went into the stands, because Hoerner casually started jogging to second base, only to be tagged out quickly after Freeman recovered the ball that was still very much in play.
The Dodgers offense was a steady stream on Saturday, though it seemed like they might get plugged up after the first inning.
Mookie Betts walked and Freddie Freeman doubled to open the game, and as a throw got away Betts scored and Freeman advanced to third with nobody out. Drew Smyly was officially on the ropes, especially after falling behind 2-0 to Trea Turner. But the left-hander struck out Turner, then worked around another walk to strand Freeman at third.
The toll was 38 pitches on Smyly’s odometer, but only scoring one run felt like a missed opportunity. But that soon dissipated with the Dodgers scoring in four different innings later.
The wind was blowing in, causing many a fly ball to fall harmlessly into outfielders’ gloves. But the wind provided little resistance to Barnes’ drive in the fourth inning.
Windy City? No problem for Barnesy. pic.twitter.com/8k1aaL6E0N— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) May 7, 2022
Saturday was just Barnes’ eighth start, but that was already his third home run of the season. It was hit in the 23rd plate appearance this season for Barnes, whose third home run last year was hit in his 121st PA.
Barnes added a two-run single in the eighth inning, raising his team-leading slugging percentage to .652.
Freeman doubled three times, tying a franchise record for a game, the first Dodger ever to do so at Wrigley Field. Dating back to 1901, the farthest back Baseball Reference has game longs, Freeman had the 61st Dodgers game with three doubles. The previous last to do so was Betts, last July 17 at Coors Field.
Saturday was the third three-double game in Freeman’s career. The first two came in 2018 with Atlanta.
Saturday Game 1 particulars
Home run: Austin Barnes (3)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (4-0): 7 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts
LP — Drew Smyly (1-3): 4⅓ IP, 6 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 2 walks, 4 strikeouts
The nightcap starts at 4:40 p.m. PT (SportsNet LA, MLB Network), with Tyler Anderson on the mound for the Dodgers. Left-hander Daniel Norris starts a bullpen game for the Cubs.