PHOENIX -- Now it's May and Clayton Kershaw still has only one win after the Dodgers bullpen let one get away vs. the first-place D-backs on Tuesday night, 4-3.
The Dodgers are nine games out of first place after playing only 29 games. They've lost their last four and seven of their last eight games, eight straight at Chase Field and seven of eight to Arizona this year.
"It doesn't matter what month it is," said Kershaw. "If you're 10 games out, you better start playing well."
The Dodgers bullpen has allowed 22 earned runs in the last 23 1/3 innings. The latest victim was left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore, who inherited a one-run lead from Kershaw to open the seventh inning and lasted only three batters. Right-handed hitters Deven Marrero and John Ryan Murphy singled and came in on lefty Daniel Descalso's two-run triple, pulled into the right-field corner to turn the game around.
Kershaw needed 101 pitches to get through six innings, racking up 52 pitches over the fourth and fifth innings. Manager Dave Roberts said he couldn't use Monday night starter Thomas Stripling and wanted to stay away from Josh Fields and Daniel Hudson, who also pitched Monday night. Confidence in Pedro Baez is shaken. Tony Cingrani pitched Monday night and, after last week's "dead arm," is being used judiciously.
So, with the bottom of Arizona's lineup due up in the seventh, Roberts brought in Liberatore and planned for JT Chargois to face the middle of the D-backs' order in the eighth with Kenley Jansen for the ninth. After seven Liberatore pitches, the plan went up in flames.
"Clayton worked hard tonight and we've got to find a way to pick him up," said Roberts. "He pitched well enough to win. The 'pen, the last nine or 10 days, it's been rough, it's been a slump. It's a funk, we've got to get out of it."
Cody Bellinger, yanked from Sunday's game by Roberts for not hustling, blasted a 435-foot two-run homer down the right-field line in the third inning for a 2-1 lead. The shot off Matt Koch stayed just fair and followed a two-out walk by Yasmani Grandal. It was also the Dodgers' last hit of the game.
The Dodgers added an unearned run in the fourth inning. Descalso dropped Chase Utley's slicing liner in left field for a two-base error and Utley came around to score on a pair of groundouts for a 3-2 lead.
Kershaw went a solid six innings and allowed a pair of solo homers on sliders, one to A.J. Pollock in the second inning -- his sixth home run against the Dodgers this year and fourth in two games -- while pinch-hitter Christian Walker launched one 479 feet into the Friday's Sports Grill in the fifth.
With the no-decision, Kershaw is 1-4 with a 2.86 ERA. With better run support and relief work, he could just as well be 4-1. The four losses match his total losses in 2017 as well as 2016. At this time last year he already had four wins.
"It's frustrating for all of us," said Roberts. "When Clayton takes the mound, we expect to win. We win as a team, we lose as a team. We've got to keep fighting. We have a lot of talent and still have a long ways to go. There is a sense of urgency, these games matter and we understand that. We've got to make our own breaks."
Kershaw was not buying the suggestion that it's time for the tables to turn.
"That's not the way this game works," he said. "When it's going well it seems like it's just going to happen, but when you're not going well it takes a lot to get a win and especially against a good team like that. Just got to keep going, keep showing up and keep going."
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Joc Pederson reached base his other three plate appearances, but he grounded into a double play in the third inning and it couldn't have been timed worse. It followed a leadoff single by Chris Taylor. Then, with two outs, Grandal walked and Bellinger homered.
Kershaw passed former Dodger pitcher and scout Camilo Pascual (2,167) for 65th place on the all-time strikeout list (2,168), but the Dodgers are 3-8 in his last 11 starts at Chase Field.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Walker's 479-foot home run was the third-longest in MLB this season and the longest allowed by Kershaw since at least 2015.
HE SAID IT
"There's a track record, there's a consistency there. … It starts with the starter going deep. I've got to do my job so everybody can do their jobs." -- Kershaw, on keeping the faith in the bullpen
Hyun-Jin Ryu starts for the Dodgers in Wednesday's 6:40 p.m. PT game against Zack Godley and the D-backs. Ryu has been the most consistent of all the Dodgers starters, and he was good again in San Francisco, except for a pair of solo home runs allowed to Evan Longoria and Brandon Crawford in a no-decision.