ATLANTA -- You can learn a lot about a player by the way he handles adversity.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw put on a clinic in that regard on Thursday afternoon, pitching eight innings of one-run ball and striking out 10 in L.A.'s 2-1, 10-inning win over the Atlanta Braves.
But it wasn't as easy as it sounds. Consider that he gave up 10 hits -- as many as he'd given up in his three previous starts combined.
"It was a weird day. You give up a bunch of runs and give up 10 hits -- they say you got shelled. If you don't give up a bunch of runs and give up 10 hits, you scattered it," said Kershaw of his 43rd double-digit strikeout game and first career win at Turner Field in his final try. "It's just a weird deal. You know, five hits in two innings -- I just kind of turned the page after that. I really look at it as two games, almost."
Kershaw allowed the first two hitters to reach in each of the first two innings, but he had help from the defense in getting out of jams both times. In the first, the Dodgers nabbed Braves second baseman Daniel Castro trying to stretch his RBI double into a triple. In the second, Chase Utley made a tremendous stab to start a 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Matt Wisler -- a game-changing play according to manager Dave Roberts.
After that, only one leadoff hitter reached base again.
Kershaw's biggest enemy was his struggle with his breaking ball.
"It wasn't good early. It got better," he said. "It was just kind of in and out today. I think I know it's in there, because I threw some good ones every now and then -- both of them, slider and curveball, but it was inconsistent."
But even Kershaw's inconsistent stuff is the envy of most pitchers, and he summoned his good stuff whenever the Braves threatened, limiting Atlanta to 2-for-10 in at-bats with runners in scoring position, recording three of his strikeouts in RISP at-bats, and stranding runners at third to end the fourth and sixth.
"He was Kershaw," said catcher Yasmani Grandal, who came off the bench to deliver the game-winning RBI. "They were aggressive early on him. They were able to get something going, but he's that good. He was able to kind of minimize the damage and throw as many innings as he threw."
Catcher A.J. Ellis, who caught the first seven innings, wasn't surprised by Kershaw's grit, nor does he harbor any doubt that Kershaw will do whatever it takes to find that consistency.
"It's games like this where we all kind of see how special he truly is," said Ellis. "On a day when the wheels would come off the truck for a lot of different guys, he's able to right the ship and keep us in the ballgame and keep putting up zeroes and give us a chance to win."
Kershaw is scary without his consistent breaking ball; imagine what will happen when he finds it.
Ellis is sure the ace won't rest until he does.
"As hard as [Kershaw] works, I think what's more important is how consistent he works," Ellis said. "He never cuts corners. He never takes days off. He's got a plan every day he comes to the ballpark."
"It's incredible," said manager Dave Roberts. "Every day I get to learn him a little bit more and kind of see how he goes about his business. No one is more critical of himself than [Kershaw] is. He just kind of finds a way. He's as competitive a person as I've ever seen, and he just kind of sometimes wills himself and wills the team to victories."