It was role reversal night, as Kershaw successfully began what promises to be a brief Minor League rehab assignment, while Beckett turned into the innings eater in a rain-soaked 5-4 loss to the Rockies in 11 innings.
Yasiel Puig homered and had two RBIs by the third inning off Colorado starter Jordan Lyles, but Puig later said a sore right knee was the cause of his limping while running the bases. He was removed in an 11th-inning double-switch (not because of the knee) and said he expects to play Saturday.
The Dodgers bullpen allowed three runs in the top of the 11th, so Adrian Gonzalez's two-run shot in the bottom of the inning (his seventh) still wasn't enough to keep the Dodgers (13-11) from falling out of first place. They are 3-5 on the homestand, 1-5 in extra innings games and the bullpen has suffered eight of the 11 losses. Six extra-innings games are the most in April for the Dodgers since 1914.
"It hasn't been the best homestand," said Gonzalez. "But it's still April, we've got a winning record and we're right there."
Jamey Wright was tagged with this one, although J.P. Howell, on his 31st birthday, was charged with two add-on runs that proved decisive as manager Don Mattingly stayed away from well-used Kenley Jansen and out-of-sync Brian Wilson.
The Dodgers offense didn't score from the fourth through 10th innings, and Matt Kemp was ejected for arguing after being called out on strikes in the bottom of the ninth, even though the club is already short on the bench while carrying 13 pitchers.
"We're still having trouble scoring runs. We've had a number of games where our pitchers have given up only two runs," said Mattingly. "I'm confident we'll put runs up on the board, we're just not doing it right now."
Despite all of that, the good news was Beckett. He's still winless since 2012, but he allowed only four hits in eight innings and struck out six without a walk. In his last three starts, he has 17 strikeouts in 18 innings and his season ERA is 2.45 coming off serious surgery to remove a rib for thoracic outlet syndrome.
Beckett's Spring Training comeback was further hampered by a bruised thumb, and as if all that wasn't enough, he lasted only five scoreless innings in his last start because a sinus infection sapped his strength. This time, he made 99 pitches, 70 of them strikes.
"It was nice to give the bullpen a little bit of a break. I certainly owed that to them after the last few outings," said Beckett, who hadn't made it past five innings in his three previous starts. "The way my Spring went, I pulled my Spring Training into my first couple of starts."
He allowed second-inning home runs to Troy Tulowitzki and Corey Dickerson, but then retired 18 of the next 19 batters, crediting an improved changeup as the key.
"I think it's a step in the right direction, personally," he said. "Showed myself I can do things I haven't done in a while -- just pitch innings."
"He's a great pitcher, somebody I grew up watching, but I was looking to get a fastball over the plate and looking to the middle of the field," Dickerson said of Beckett. "But, throughout the game, he was keeping people off balance."
Dee Gordon tied the game as only he could, beginning with a two-out infield double. Second baseman DJ LeMahieu tried to glove the bouncer on the run, the ball stopping but LaMahieu's momentum taking him 20 feet past the ball. By the time he retrieved it, Gordon had rounded first and slid headfirst into second. Puig then ripped a single into left field to score Gordon.
"That play helps you understand how fast he is," Mattingly said. "Nobody else even thinks of that play."
But things unraveled in the 11th. Wright, who retired the first four batters he faced, allowed a double to pinch-hitter Brandon Barnes. Howell came on to face Charlie Blackmon, who singled up the middle to score Barnes, then stole second. Nolan Arenado singled Blackmon to third and with runners on the corners, Carlos Gonzalez bounced to Adrian Gonzalez, whose throw home was late. Brandon League came on and walked Tulowitzki, then Justin Morneau singled home Arenado.
A heads-up double-play by Gordon cut off the inning and Gonzalez launched a two-run homer off LaTroy Hawkins in the bottom of the frame before the Dodgers fell.