Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon
news

MLB News

Kershaw stingy, except with praise of Betts

@kengurnick
September 20, 2020

If this October turns out better for the Dodgers than any in the past three decades, former MVPs Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts will help make that happen by being the kind of heroes in the postseason they were Saturday night. Kershaw was at his best once again, allowing only

If this October turns out better for the Dodgers than any in the past three decades, former MVPs Clayton Kershaw and Mookie Betts will help make that happen by being the kind of heroes in the postseason they were Saturday night.

Kershaw was at his best once again, allowing only one run in seven innings at hitter haven Coors Field, while Betts was at his best for one symbolic play in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Rockies that cut their magic number for clinching the National League West to three and extend their win streak to five.

Box score

Confidence in Kershaw pitching deep and resting relievers is why the Dodgers can toy with a bullpen game to optimize matchups the day before he pitches, as they did on Friday. They just might use such a strategy in the best-of-three Wild Card round of the postseason, with Kershaw and Walker Buehler starting two of the games and a bullpen game an option if a third game is needed.

Buehler also pitched on Saturday -- a 90-pitch simulated game -- and is scheduled to come off the injured list to make his final regular-season start on Thursday, followed by Kershaw on Friday. Although everything with the Dodgers is subject to last-minute audibles, note that order, as the Dodgers’ postseason begins Wednesday, Sept. 30, at Dodger Stadium, six days after Buehler’s start.

Kershaw, who opened the season on the injured list but is making a late bid for a fourth NL Cy Young Award, allowed four hits and struck out six without a walk Saturday. He is 6-2 with a 2.15 ERA, 59 strikeouts and only eight walks this year. He’s also a stunning 24-8 in his career against the Rockies and 11-5 at Coors Field.

Chris Taylor did the heavy lifting for run support with a home run, triple and three RBIs. AJ Pollock added a solo home run, his 12th of the season and sixth this month. Taylor has seven homers, five this month, and 21 RBIs in September.

But it was the 180 feet that Betts ran in the seventh inning that brought back memories of 1988. Despite going 1-for-5 with an infield single, Betts had Kershaw and manager Dave Roberts wowed the way Kirk Gibson wowed people when he scored from second base on a wild pitch in ’88. And you know how that year turned out.

Betts scored from second on a wild pickoff at second base, slowing down only slightly as he rounded third while peeking at whether Colorado’s defense was hustling enough to get the ball in. It wasn’t. Betts turned on the jets and scored a gift run with two outs.

“You’ve got [Mike] Trout, but I just don’t see anybody else in that category,” Roberts said when asked if there’s any other current game-changer who compares. “That’s one of the better plays you’ll ever see.”

Kershaw also spoke as if he’d just seen something for the first time.

“He took third base on a bad pickoff and scored on a throw to shortstop. Who does that?” Kershaw asked. “He’s leading the league in homers, doesn’t strike out, has great at-bats, runs the bases well, is the best right fielder I’ve ever seen.”

Kershaw took note that president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman was willing go 12 years on Betts’ contract extension.

“It’s going to be a special thing to watch for a long time,” Kershaw said.

Just like Kershaw has been for 13 years and 175 wins. This year’s version has renewed fastball vigor and slider bite. Kershaw said better pitch execution has resulted in more groundouts and efficient outings. And he gave a shout-out to the overlooked defense.

“We’re pretty spoiled as a pitching staff with our defense and the way the guys put people in the right spots,” said Kershaw. “There’s just not a lot of mistakes made. It’s a compliment to everybody in our organization.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.