LOS ANGELES (AP) — Their three-time Cy Young Award winner couldn’t get out of the first inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Now, the 100-win Los Angeles Dodgers turn to a 24-year-old rookie to get them back in the NL Division Series.
Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw put his 35-year-old body through its paces in shallow left field on Sunday. He hopped, stretched and jogged, seemingly alone with his thoughts despite teammates taking batting practice nearby.
The sunshine that bathed the green grass was in stark contrast to the darkest night of Kershaw’s 16-year career.
He got tagged for six runs and recorded just one out, then was yanked after 35 pitches of an 11-2 loss in Game 1 on Saturday night.
“Just embarrassing really,” Kershaw said.
Now, he and the Dodgers can only look forward, hoping to force the best-of-five series to a Game 4, which manager Dave Roberts re-confirmed Kershaw would start Thursday in Phoenix.
“That’s the best option and I see it as the only option,” Roberts said.
In a departure from usual postseason scheduling, the teams were off Sunday.
“I think the off-day might kind of hopefully cool those bats down on the other side,” Roberts said.
Los Angeles will start right-hander Bobby Miller against 17-game winner Zac Gallen for Arizona in Game 2 on Monday at Dodger Stadium.
“Make no mistake, he’s a killer out there and he always feels he’s the best option with the baseball,” Roberts said of Miller.
Miller was 11-4 with a 3.76 ERA and 119 strikeouts in the regular season, including two wins against the D-backs.
“He’s ready,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman said. “Just from the first start he made this year to where he’s at now, the mound poise, the way he’s commanding the baseball, how he’s attacking hitters, we feel pretty good.”
All-Star Gallen lost twice to the Dodgers while going 17-9 with a 3.47 ERA in the regular season.
“They’re going to come out firing,” he said. “But I also don’t think there’s pressure. Nobody expects us to be here. You see us play our best baseball when we’re playing kind of easy, carefree, and I think that’s just the mentality I’ll have out there.”
After a two-game sweep of Milwaukee in the NL Wild Card Series, the 84-win D-backs were aggressive in going after Kershaw from the first pitch.
“This team has a chip on its shoulder,” D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. “Hopefully people are recognizing that you can’t just walk all over us.”
If the Dodgers make it to a Game 4, Kershaw would be working on his shortest rest since early in the season. His workload has been carefully managed since coming off the injured list on Aug. 10, with no outing beyond 5 1/3 innings.
Kershaw insisted his meltdown wasn’t related to the shoulder injury that sent him to the injured list for six weeks earlier in the season. Both he and the Dodgers have been mum about specifics of the injury.
“If you look at the stuff, everything was actually a tick up from what it’s been. So the recovery, the stuff in-game doesn’t speak to anything with the arm,” Roberts said. “It’s nothing to do with the injury to the shoulder, nothing.”
Kershaw exited Game 1 with an ERA of — wait for it — 162.00.
“What I do know is for us to accomplish what we want to this year, we’re going to need Clayton Kershaw to start baseball games,” Roberts said. “And I’ve got all the confidence in the world that he can do that and he’s going to be just fine.”
AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/mlb