Clayton Kershaw labored for a second straight start, couldn’t complete the fourth inning, and the Dodgers crumbled under the weight of a week’s worth of asking their bullpen to do too much in a 10-5 loss to the Cardinals on Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium in St. Louis.
The Dodgers have lost back-to-back games for the first time since April 26-27.
Sunday was Kershaw’s shortest start of the season, leaving with the bases loaded and two outs in the fourth inning. He allowed four runs on five hits and three walks, striking out six. Things could have been worse, as Paul Goldschmidt greeted reliever Shelby Miller with a 97.2-mph liner, but it was hit right at Chris Taylor at third base.
Kershaw needed 95 pitches to record 11 outs on Sunday, after needing 90 pitches to get through four innings on Tuesday against Minnesota. It’s only the second time in Kershaw’s career he’s failed to pitch beyond four innings in consecutive starts. The other time was August 23-28, 2008, during his rookie season.
While uncharacteristic for Kershaw, the short outing is par for the course in a trying week for the Dodgers, who got 25⅔ innings from starting pitchers in seven games.
What’s in a number?
Triskaphobia came in the second inning, when Kershaw allowed three doubles for three runs, needing 33 pitches to complete the frame, a season-high for one inning this year for the left-hander.
The first double was hit by Nolan Arenado, which was the 2,000th career hit surrendered by Kershaw. Arenado was a fitting batter for the milestone, as his 22 career hits against Kershaw are the second-most all-time, tied with Charlie Blackmon and three behind Buster Posey.
Kershaw wasn’t alone in the short-start crew, as Jack Flaherty had a 4-1 lead but couldn’t complete the fifth. Freddie Freeman singled home one run. When Flaherty’s third walk of the inning loaded the bases, he was pulled with two outs. Reliever Drew VerHagen committed the first balk of his career to pull the Dodgers within one.
Needing relievers needing to cover nearly 60 percent of the innings for a week is too treacherous of a path to tread, as it’s rife with landmines. The first on Sunday came in the fifth for the Dodgers, when Miller was pulled with one out after a single by Arenado. In came Justin Bruihl, pitching for the fifth time in eight days. He allowed a single and two singles that brought home three runs, two charged to his own account.
Wander Suero pitched a scoreless sixth, but allowed two singles in the seventh before a Paul DeJong three-run home run gave St. Louis double-digit runs for the second time in the four-game series.
Oscar Mercado was the other culprit doing most of the damage for the Cardinals, with a double, two singles, and five RBI.
Max Muncy struck out looking in the fourth inning, taking a slider at the bottom of the strike zone called a ball, followed by a fastball near the same spot called a strike. Muncy had some words for home plate Nic Lentz, but it wasn’t until the muttering continued on the way back to the dugout that Muncy was ejected. By third base umpire and crew chief Paul Emmel, whose strike zone in the ninth inning on Saturday left the Dodgers sore.
Taylor took over for Muncy at third base in the bottom of the fourth.
Home run: Paul DeJong (7)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (6-4): 3⅔ IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, 3 walks, 6 strikeouts
LP — Drew VerHagen (3-0): 2⅓ IP, 3 strikeouts
The Dodgers move onto Atlanta, where they face the first-place Braves of the National League East. Gavin Stone will take Dustin May’s rotation spot in Monday’s series opener (4:20 p.m. PT SportsNet LA), facing Charlie Morton for the Braves.