Kershaw's rough outing magnifies Dodgers' early troubles
Team's difficulties include bullpen gaffes, slumping stars and injuries
PHOENIX -- Even Clayton Kershaw couldn't restore order for the Dodgers on Saturday night.
The solid favorites in the NL West have lost three of five this first week. Kershaw is winless, the bullpen has two losses, Yasiel Puig was benched with a .118 average and during Saturday night's 6-0 loss to debuting Archie Bradley and the D-backs, infielders Justin Turner and Juan Uribe were injured on back-to-back plays at third base.
The metrics the front office embraces are highly guarded proprietary secrets, but after a couple hard-hit D-backs balls found gaping holes through an exaggerated shifted infield, the Dodgers abandoned the shifts and began playing everyone essentially straight up.
With club president Andrew Friedman sitting in on the manager's postgame media session, Don Mattingly said he hadn't abandoned the shift. And when another question was asked about early-game hits through holes (for example, A.J. Pollock's first-inning single), he said no batters are good enough to place balls where the fielders aren't. Friedman did not say anything during the session.
Kershaw -- a 21-game winner and MVP with less dramatic defensive shifts last year -- was finally driven for cover, yielding the obligatory home run to Paul Goldschmidt, a two-run shot with one out in the seventh inning that no shift could prevent. Kershaw was charged with six runs (five earned) on 10 hits with five strikeouts in 6 1/3 innings.
"Basically, I got blasted today," said Kershaw. "I don't know what else to say."
Kershaw also walked three, with two of those becoming runs. He already has allowed at least three earned runs in back-to-back starts, something he did only once last year. The three-time ERA leader has a 5.84.
And the Dodgers' offense was worse. A lineup loaded with veterans got only one hit (a Howie Kendrick double) in six innings off Bradley in his Major League debut. The one kid in the Dodgers' lineup, Joc Pederson, struck out three times and is 3-for-17 with eight strikeouts.
A slumping Puig is expected to return to the lineup Sunday, when Mattingly likely will be choosing between Alex Guerrero and Darwin Barney for third base. Or, if Uribe or Turner has to go on the disabled list, the team can call up Kiké Hernandez.
Kershaw acknowledged he made location mistakes and offered no excuses for another rough outing at Chase Field. He walked the fine line on the subject of defensive shifts.
"Sometimes you're going to have days when line drives are hit at guys and your line looks better than you pitched," he said. "Other days you'll give up ground balls and broken-bat hits. Today was a combination of both. They hit balls where we weren't and hit a lot of balls hard.
"A lot of guys do a lot of research and homework and you put guys where they're supposed to be. Execute the gameplan and they hit the ball where they are. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. As a pitcher, you shouldn't change your gameplan at all."