PHILADELPHIA--The kind of start Clayton Kershaw had in Arizona last weekend is difficult to see coming. What he did Friday night against the Philadelphia Phillies, however, was almost a given.
Kershaw bounced back from one of the worst starts of his career by throwing six scoreless innings. Even a fourth-inning rain delay couldn't stop him from his appointed rounds, combining with four relievers on a three-hit shutout as the Dodgers beat the Phillies, 2-0.
"Just pretty miserable those four days, five days in between starts," said Kershaw who was driven from his previous start after allowing seven runs in 12/3 innings last Saturday. "It's not a whole lot of fun sitting on that game for five days. So I'm glad this day came and I'm glad we got a win tonight. Now this is my last start instead of that one."
Kershaw's revulsion was evident in his words – and his deeds. The start in Arizona was the fifth time Kershaw has allowed at least seven runs in a start. In the starts immediately after those games, he has not allowed a run in 38 innings, allowing just 18 hits while striking out 37.
"He hides it pretty well," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said of whatever misery Kershaw was experiencing. "He's always a good teammate, on the bench cheering for the other guys. But like I said after the Arizona game – I don't know the last time I've seen him have two bad ones in a row. He's always known how to rise to the occasion and kind of make amends for what he's done."
The weather might have been Kershaw's biggest challenge Friday.
He didn't allow a hit in the first three innings but a rainstorm forced a delay during the top of the fourth.
After 43 minutes, Kershaw walked the first batter, then gave up a double. He struck out the next three, getting Marlon Byrd, Ryan Howard and Darin Ruf to chase breaking pitches in the dirt for third strikes. Kershaw's slider and curveball were the main culprits in the Arizona beating.
"He was able to keep his breaking stuff down," Ellis said of the difference. "His slider was as good as I've seen it all year. That was the pitch we used to get out of that second-and-third jam. He struck out all three of those guys with sliders. In Arizona everything was up."
Kemp, Ramirez sit
On Thursday, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly watched his team play yet another poor defensive game. On Friday, Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp were sitting on the bench with him.
Ramirez and Kemp each rank at or near the bottom in defensive ratings at their positions and have combined to make 11 of the Dodgers' 39 errors this season. Mattingly said it was "just a day (off)" for Ramirez, who was spelled by Erisbel Arruebarrena, a 24-year-old Cubanmaking his major league debut.
He did not say the same thing about Kemp.
"Obviously center field has been a situation we continue to look at," Mattingly said. "We need to get better there. We're looking at all options."
The decision to start Andre Ethier over Kemp on Friday was particularly telling on the heels of comments Mattingly made following Thursday's 5-3 loss to the New York Mets. Kemp committed an error that led to an unearned run but also continued to struggle with his reads and routes to fly balls.
"It doesn't look the same," Mattingly said of Kemp's ability to cover ground in center field. "Just the burst, that kind of outrun-the-ball thing. ... There's no reports of him not feeling good or having any trouble in that area. We're just not seeing that same burst and I don't know if that's just a matter of being out a few years. We'll see."
Kemp acknowledged that his defense has been lacking and admitted that his left ankle has not completely returned to normal following microfracture surgery on the talus bone last October.
"Do I feel the same? Man, I just need to play better defense," Kemp said. "Ain't no 'burst' or anything like that.
"I wish I was explosive as I could be in the past. I have good days and bad days. Some days my ankle is looser than other days. Some days it's a little stiff. I'm not hurt or anything. But you have those good days and bad days. That's true for any baseball player.
"Shoot -- I wish I could go out there and steal 100 million bases like I used to. But like I said some days my legs -- I don't feel it as far as being loose. But the more I play, the more it gets better and better. I'm happy about that."
Kemp was obviously not happy about being out of the lineup and Mattingly said the two talked privately Friday afternoon. He would not specify what was discussed -- nor was Mattingly willing to be drawn into a deeper discussion of Kemp's defensive issues. But he did not offer much in the way of a defense, either.
"Obviously I'm not going to come out here and tell you guys, badmouth anybody or say anything bad about guys if I don't have to," Mattingly said. "I'm going to protect guys and not try to embarrass them or anything like that. We put the lineup out and talk with guys about our situation and what we need to get better at. Then we go from there.
"..., we've had a good long look (Kemp started 20 of the previous 25 games in center field). We want to continue to discuss our options and our situation – how do we get better, how do we improve – and then we're going to try to put what we think is our best club right now on the field."
Mattingly acknowledged that defensive metrics like UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and D-WAR (defensive-WAR) do not reflect favorably on Kemp.
"I'm not going to sit here and try to cut up a guy's numbers or try to say anything bad about a guy," Mattingly said when asked if he was aware of those statistics. "We're going to continue to try to get the best out of everybody, look at our club, evaluate our club, put the best club on the field. I'm certainly not going to sit here and bash anybody or publicly go into the numbers. We know what they are, though."
Although Mattingly said "you know it's in there somewhere" during his postgame comments Thursday, he would not specify Friday whether Kemp's playing time will decline with Ethier presenting a better defensive option. When asked how he viewed Kemp's role, Mattingly offered only, "as part of our team."
"We haven't sat down and said anything for sure what we're going to do out there," Mattingly said. "Again, we keep having talks and discussions about how we want to go about things. We'll see as it goes."
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