Sarah's Take: Kershaw deserves more wins
Dodgers bats aren't giving their ace the offensive support he needs
For the first time this season, the Los Angeles Dodgers might have a winning road trip. They have won four of seven against the Cubs and the Marlins, and now head to Arizona for three games before heading home.
However, their offensive production is still a major concern. Many Dodgers fans ask what's wrong with Clayton Kershaw.
The answer is: nothing.
Since the beginning of the 2011 season, Kershaw has been one of the most commanding starters in baseball. It's difficult for any pitcher to maintain this kind of dominance for an extended period. Since 2011, Kershaw has won three Cy Young Awards and one National League MVP Award. This is a remarkable achievement.
This year, Kershaw has pitched well, but not up to his usual fantastic standards. He doesn't deserve a losing (5-6) record, but the Dodgers' offense hasn't provided him adequate run support. Any pitcher who has a 3.20 ERA, like Kershaw does this year, should have more wins.
On Saturday night against the Marlins, Kershaw allowed only one earned run. Although his failure to back up third base let another run score, the Dodgers only provided him one run to work with. Not many pitchers can win games with only a run.
The locations of Kershaw's pitches haven't been as good this season as last, but it happens. He's been leaving his rainbow curveball up in the strike zone, making it hittable. The opposition knows he has supreme control, so they're attacking his first pitch more than they used to, and this takes away his devastating slider.
Elsewhere in the rotation, Zack Greinke now has a 1.58 ERA, the lowest in the National League, and six wins after a victory on Sunday, his first since May 5. He also has 20 2/3 scoreless innings that span three games. He will undoubtedly be selected for the All-Star Game.
The Dodgers have the second-best defense in the National League, and this has helped them maintain their lead in the NL West. It's a marked improvement over last year's defensive debacle, when the Dodgers were second worst in the league, and it has enabled them to survive injuries to their pitching staff. They are strong up the middle, and historically this is a sign of a championship-caliber team.
What to do with the Dodgers' offense? This is the question that the team and manager Don Mattingly need to answer as soon as possible.
Asking Yasiel Puig to develop a game plan and follow it every time he comes to bat isn't the answer to the Dodgers' offensive woes. He has played in only 30 games this year, battling a hamstring injury and a blister problem.
Contrary to popular belief, Puig isn't a free swinger. Yes, sometimes he chases pitches out of the strike zone, which frustrates the Dodgers' management, but in my 38 years of watching baseball, I can't name one player who hasn't done that. When he hits the first pitch, he hits .500. He already has walked 14 times this year and has a .389 on-base percentage.
The Dodgers need to generate more offensive production to ensure a third consecutive NL West title, but concentrating on their superstars' contributions or lack thereof isn't the way to do it. Baseball is a true team sport, and when fans and Mattingly remember it, the Dodgers may perform better than they have since the beginning of May.