Kershaw master of command at Coors Field
Dodgers ace improves to 8-3 lifetime, logs three hits vs. Rockies
DENVER -- Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw is really good.
How good is he? Kershaw is so good that he takes the mound at Coors Field, laughs at the nightmarish moments that haunt others when they face the challenge of baseball at 5,280 feet, and wins.
It is about adjustments. Kershaw makes them.
It is about ability. Kershaw has it.
It's about winning. Kershaw does it.
And it doesn't matter if Kershaw is in Coors Field.
There Kershaw was on Monday night, once again facing the Rockies on the road, and putting together seven strong innings, the only blemish a two-run Nolan Arenado homer in the fourth inning that tied a game which turned into an 11-4 Dodgers victory.
That's right, seven innings in which Kershaw gave up three hits and two runs, walked one batter and struck out seven. Heck, he had as many hits himself, going 3-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
Surprised? Don't be. Rick Honeycutt, the only pitching coach Kershaw has known in the big leagues, isn't.
"Overall, he has pitched pretty well here," Honeycutt said. "Oh, there have been some games where that one little thing happens and it becomes a big inning, but overall, he has limited those."
Kershaw even takes part in the offense at Coors Field. He's now hitting .333 in his career, with two doubles, matching Dodger Stadium for his career high, and six RBIs, second only to the 11 he has in his home park, where he has had 179 more at-bats than Coors Field.
Now Kershaw isn't lobbying to pitch at Coors Field more often. But he has made more starts here (17) than any other park outside of Dodger Stadium. Kershaw is 8-3 lifetime at Coors Field. And he is getting better with age.
Check out that line since 2013, the year Kershaw turned 25. The Dodgers have won all seven games he has started in Colorado, and he is 5-0 with a 3.09 ERA.
"He's been here a few times," Honeycutt said. "We are in the same division, so he can pitch three times a year here. Over times when you're a good pitcher, you adapt to places you've been before."
Now, that's not saying Kershaw is perfect. Funny things can happen at Coors Field, like his no-decision on May 10, when the Dodgers, down 5-2 after four, rallied for a 9-5 win in a game Kershaw departed with two out in the bottom of the sixth. The Rockies put a five-spot on the board in a fourth inning in which a Drew Stubbs nubber in front of home plate was called a base hit, and led to the final three runs.
"It happens," Kershaw said.
The key is not letting it happen over and over again. Yes, Kershaw has allowed five or more runs in six starts at Coors Field, but he also has allowed two or fewer eight times, and three runs in the three other starts.
The key is not getting caught up with where Kershaw is pitching, but rather focusing on how he is pitching.
"It is always a challenge to pitch here, but you just try and keep [the team] in the game until the offense can get the job done," he said.
That's what Kershaw did on Monday. Given a 2-0 lead on home runs by Andre Ethier and Jimmy Rollins in the second, Kershaw did give up that two-run homer to Arenado following Troy Tulowitzki's leadoff single in the fourth. Kershaw, however, retired 12 of the next 14 batters he faced before turning things over to the bullpen for the final two innings.
"You try to keep the ball down," Kershaw said.
But there's not an overhaul of the process.
Kershaw has that big curveball, and it curves at Coors Field. He has that hard over-the-top slider, and it slides at Coors Field. And Kershaw has that power fastball, and it powers at Coors Field.
"I throw the pitches the same," Kershaw said. "You don't just change things. There is a smaller margin of error, but you know that. It doesn't surprise you."
But then Kershaw doesn't surprise anybody, either. He does his job and he does it well.
Kershaw can pitch. He can field. And he can hit, like that double he powered over the head of Rockies left fielder Rafael Ynoa in the fourth or that run-scoring single in the midst of the decisive six-run sixth when he faked a bunt, pulled back and slapped the ball through the vacated hole at shortstop.
"You appreciate guys like that for sure," manager Don Mattingly said. "They are baseball players. You like guys who take everything they do seriously. He holds runners. He fields his position. He can bunt. Those are all things that can help you win a game."
And that is one thing Kershaw can do, win games, in Coors Field and anywhere else he pitches.