In the midst of a three-game losing streak and facing a potential sweep against the divisional rival San Diego Padres that would extend it to four, the Los Angeles Dodgers played their ace card, calling upon Clayton Kershaw to stop the skid and get what had been a winning team back on track.
It’s a script that the lefty has followed many times over his career, but this time, the results were different.
This time, Kershaw resembled more of his old self when he’d just come into the league as an inconsistent prospect with sky-high talent, instead of the dominating Cy Young winner that would have had little problem shutting down the Padres at home.
The 25-year-old failed to pitch out of the six inning on Wednesday, laboring through the middle innings of his 109-pitch outing and giving up three earned runs (five total) on seven hits as the Dodgers ultimately took a 7-2 loss.
The main culprits for Kershaw’s rare off-day? Well, it’s two-fold, really. For one, he was having trouble with his control and walked four opposing batters on the day. It won’t come as much of a surprise, but the ace also did not escape the sixth in both 2012 starts where he walked four or more batters.
Then there’s the long balls. For the first time since May of 2012, Kershaw gave up three homers. Luckily for him, these were all of the solo variety, but two of them were to batters that would normally have no business homering off a pitcher of his caliber — namely, Everth Cabrera and Chris Denorfia.
In fact, the Cabrera then game-tying homer to lead off the fourth inning was arguably when the wheels really started to fall off for Kershaw, who had otherwise gotten off to a good start, retiring nine out of his 10 batters.
Now, he’s not exactly what you’d call a homer-prone pitcher, and 28.2 innings to go on, but here are his HR/9 numbers since 2011: 0.58, 0.63, 0.94. That last one from 2013 has obviously been skewed due to Wednesday’s game, but you could still call it a bit of a blast from the past as it hasn’t been nearly that high since the 0.92 HR/9 Kershaw gave up in his rookie season.
There’s little doubt that the number will normalize quickly, but let’s just say it’s a trip down nostalgia lane that the Dodgers would rather him not be taking right now.