Angels' winning streak runs into 'buzzsaw'

Offense struggles vs. Dodgers ace Kershaw

May 18th, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- The Angels were starting to feel pretty good about themselves when they arrived at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. They had won four in a row, sweeping the first-place Mariners and taking the first of a four-game Freeway Series against their crosstown rivals. And their offense had seemingly turned a corner, scoring 36 runs over a five-game stretch that made them believe they might just be able to overcome the litany of injuries that had plagued them.

Then they ran into Clayton Kershaw.

Or, as Kole Calhoun called him: "Buzzsaw."

The Angels became the latest team to fall victim to Kershaw's dominant, historic run, scoring just once over the course of eight innings in an eventual 5-1 loss. A team that puts the ball in play more frequently than any other struck out 11 times and never so much as drew a walk against the Dodgers' ace, who improved to 6-1 with a 1.67 ERA.

Kershaw scattered four hits and retired his last 13 hitters in order. He struck out 10-plus hitters while issuing no more than one walk for the sixth consecutive time, a modern-day record. And he ran his May ERA to 0.82.

Afterward, Kershaw summed his outing up as "pretty average."

When asked what worked well, Kershaw said, "Nothing stood out."

Plenty stood out to the Angels.

First and foremost was his cutter, the one that looks just like a four-seam fastball right up until it's too late. Kershaw buries that pitch inside against right-handed hitters better than practically any lefty. Then there's the wicked slider, which he went to frequently. And the loopy curveball, which never leaves a hitter's subconscious.

"It would be fun to go out there with his [stuff], that's for sure," said Angels starter Jered Weaver, who must make due with a fastball that sits mostly in the low-80s.

"When you get your pitch to hit," Mike Trout said, "you can't miss it."

The Angels were able to string together three singles over a four-batter stretch to begin the second inning, with Albert Pujols, Johnny Giavotella and Shane Robinson helping to plate the game's first run. From then on, though, Kershaw retired 20 of 21 batters, nine on strikeouts, six on grounders, five on pop-ups and very few on balls that were hit hard.

"All his pitches move late," Calhoun said. "That's the biggest thing."

"You come out aggressive, ready to hit," Giavotella added, "but sometimes those strikes are in different spots than they appear to be."

All told, Kershaw now has 88 strikeouts and only four walks -- four! -- in 70 innings this season, giving him a 22.1 strikeout-to-walk ratio that is on pace to be the highest mark of the modern era.

Giavotella was the only Angels player to record multiple hits. Trout went 0-for-3 against Kershaw, striking out swinging in the first, grounding out to the left side in the third and flying out to center in the sixth, making him 2-for-11 in his career. The Angels entered looking to be aggressive early in the count, so the 28-year-old left-hander began starting at-bats with cutters and sliders, two pitches that gave the Angels fits.

And as the night wore on, Kershaw's stuff only got better.

Said Calhoun: "He's one of the best in the game for a reason."