Are you kidding? Kershaw praises rookie heroics
Smith's first grand slam extends magical run for Dodgers' youngsters
LOS ANGELES -- Go for it? Or keep the prospects?
After watching the latest heroics of rookie catcher Will Smith -- a grand slam in Thursday night’s 8-2 win over the Padres -- winning pitcher Clayton Kershaw sees the possibility of having the best of both worlds.
“In a Major League clubhouse, the words ‘prospects’ -- I don’t care. We want to win,” said Kershaw. “Then you see the guys come up and, oh man, they can help us win big league games. That does something for me. It’s a fine line.”
Management strode that line at Wednesday’s Trade Deadline, resisting the temptation to overpay with the club’s best prospects to land premier Pirates reliever Felipe Vazquez. Instead, some of those prospects, like Smith, will have the chance to help Kershaw win that elusive first ring this year.
Smith, who was in Triple-A a week ago, shared the spotlight with two of the great names in Dodgers history, as Kershaw passed Sandy Koufax for third place on the all-time franchise list for strikeouts.
Kershaw (10-2) has reached double digits in wins in nine of the last 10 seasons. He’s 20-6 lifetime against the Padres and in his last 18 starts against them, Kershaw is 12-0 and the Dodgers are 17-1, the only loss coming on July 5, 3-2, at Dodger Stadium.
He had to overcome a season-high five walks to battle through six innings. That was just long enough to qualify for the win, as Smith homered in the bottom of the inning to give the Dodgers the lead.
On Wednesday at Coors Field, Smith slugged a three-run homer in the ninth inning to lead a 5-1 win. He doubled and scored the only Dodgers run on Monday. He homered in Washington on Saturday and is 8-for-17 with three homers and 13 RBIs since returning.
“He makes oppo [opposite field] look easy here at Dodger Stadium,” said Kershaw.
All told, Smith has six homers and 19 RBIs, a franchise record for the first 14 games of a career.
“I’m cautions to make this comparison, but [Yasiel] Puig was like this when he came up,” said manager Dave Roberts. “That’s the only time I’ll compare Will Smith and Yasiel Puig. That excitement, when he comes up, guys want to watch him. That expectation, that anticipation and then the delivery. It’s good to see.”
And as Kershaw acknowledged, it’s not just Smith this year. Alex Verdugo, Matt Beaty, Kyle Garlick, Tony Gonsolin and Edwin Rios have had rookie moments to star.
Dustin May makes his MLB debut, starting Friday night. Gavin Lux is on fire at Triple-A. The Dodgers are letting the kids play.
“Obviously, we have really quality players, but it’s a testament to the organization for getting them ready and a testament to the guys in this clubhouse for welcoming them and letting them be themselves,” said Kershaw. “Dugie, Belli, Seags, all these guys have performed well when they came up. Will’s no different and I’m pretty sure Dustin will be just fine tomorrow, too.”