PITTSBURGH -- He's only human, so on rare occasions Clayton Kershaw gets hit, even gets beat, as he did by the Pirates, 4-3, on Sunday night.
"He can't be perfect," said Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. "We expect him to be perfect every night, we do."
Roberts doesn't expect perfection from his offense. But he expects more than four hits when the opposition's starting pitcher, Chad Kuhl, is making his Major League debut. Justin Turner had half the hits and all three RBIs.
"Throughout the lineup, we've got to have some more production," Roberts said. "At certain times as an offense we've got to pick him up, too."
After winning six straight, the Dodgers have lost three straight to the previously struggling Bucs and are a season-worst eight games behind the Giants. That puts them as close to last place as first place.
Roberts has no fifth starter for Wednesday; fourth starter Julio Urias is rapidly approaching a club-imposed innings limit; and the cleanup hitter, Adrian Gonzalez, had been benched until Tuesday because of lack of production. He entered Sunday's game and grounded out.
The one constant this year, as well as the previous five, is Kershaw. He came into this start unbeaten in 10 previous starts with an 11-1 record overall and led the Majors in just about every other major pitching category. But he also was only 2-2 in his career against the Pirates in 10 starts, winless since 2013 and winless at PNC Park since '12.
Kershaw walked a batter before he struck one out. He was ahead in the count, 1-2, before giving up a two-out RBI single to Adam Frazier, his second career hit. Then David Freese, who had tormented Kershaw when he was with the Cardinals in the postseason, cleared loaded bases with a double for a four-run, 30-pitch second inning.
"It just really comes down to limit the damage," said Kershaw, who allowed nine hits in six innings. "Some of those hits, I missed some spots, but they didn't hit it too hard. Then the Freese hit killed me tonight. I missed my spot bad, he made me pay. He's a good hitter, he's had some success against me and always been a tough out. I've got to get the guy ahead of him out. That's pretty much the name of the game tonight."
Kershaw quashed the theory that he pitches better when A.J. Ellis catches than Sunday night catcher Yasmani Grandal.
"They don't get the credit when we pitch well, so they don't deserve the blame when we pitch bad, and that's the way it works," Kershaw said.