LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed Clayton Kershaw from Wednesday's game with a one-run lead -- immediately after letting Kershaw bat for himself.After the Dodgers held on to beat the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg, 2-1, Roberts said he planned to let Kershaw pitch the eighth inning and face
LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers manager Dave Roberts removed Clayton Kershaw from Wednesday's game with a one-run lead -- immediately after letting Kershaw bat for himself.
After the Dodgers held on to beat the Nationals and Stephen Strasburg, 2-1, Roberts said he planned to let Kershaw pitch the eighth inning and face the top of the order for a fourth time, then didn't.
"After I thought about it and how he was kind of grinding through the day," said Roberts. "The linescore was great, but he didn't have his best stuff, and those guys were taking good swings. For me, as I thought it through, I changed my mind."
Kershaw was pitching a three-hitter with nine strikeouts, but he also had walked three and recorded some loud outs in the sixth and seventh innings.
So, Pedro Baez took over and immediately served up a leadoff triple to Trea Turner, but made a stab reminiscent of his days as a third baseman to turn a Bryce Harper hit into a rundown and a tag of Turner at home. Kenley Jansen nailed down a four-out save, and Roberts escaped a serious internet firestorm.
"It comes with the job. I can only do what I think is right and live with whatever happens," Roberts said. "Right there, the game tells you how you should manage it. For me, going through the game and watching it, the easy thing for me to do is send him back out there. The responsible thing, either way it played out, was to make that move."
Kershaw didn't look happy as Roberts explained his thinking in the dugout, but he didn't make a scene, either. The lefty was vague afterward.
"I didn't have much today in the tank," he admitted. "I felt fine, but it wasn't coming out the way I wanted it to. There's a lot going on there, both ways. Without elaborating, that's the way it went."
When pressed about the removal, Kershaw clammed up.
"I'm going to say something cliché, but it is what it is, so there you go," he said.
Roberts and Kershaw were more eloquent about his nine-pitch at-bat that ended in a groundout leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, that was followed by Chris Taylor's eight-pitch at-bat and groundout, the combination of which the Dodgers believe softened up a dominating Stephen Strasburg, who then allowed a tying homer to Corey Seager and the decisive RBI double by Yasmani Grandal after a pair of pitches to the backstop.
"Certain points in a game change the momentum," said Roberts. "Strasburg was pitching really well and striking guys out, but that nine-pitch at-bat changed the momentum to our side, and C.T. with another quality at-bat and to me, I believe that led into the Seager at-bat where Corey homered."
Kershaw agreed that extended at-bats take their toll.
"You only have so many pitches, 100, 120, and if you throw 20 or 30 an inning, 10 an at-bat, it's a good recipe to get starters of his caliber out of the game," Kershaw said. "When you're not able to get hits or hit the ball hard, that's the next best thing, and we did a good job of it that inning."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers since 1989, and for MLB.com since 2001.