Clayton Kershaw Impresses Dodgers With ‘Next Pitch’ Ability

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Clayton Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings Tuesday night against the Los Angeles Angels to help the Los Angeles Dodgers snap a three-game losing streak, while also picking up an offense that managed to plate only two runs, and not until late in the game.

Kershaw’s performance was not without drama. In a tie game in the seventh inning, the Angels had runners on second base and third base with nobody out. Eventually, the bases were loaded with two outs in the inning, and he still managed to get out of the jam.

“At the end of the day, I always think about the next pitch,” Kershaw explained of escaping trouble. “That’s kind of what I try to do. Just try to make the next pitch.

“There’s nothing you can do about the last one. Just keep making the next pitch until they take you out. It is harder to do sometimes than others, but just try to breathe and think about the next pitch.”

Kershaw’s ability to stem off a rally and focus on one pitch at a time has become a trademark not lost on his opponents or teammates.

“I feel like he’s been doing ‘next pitch’ for 15 years,” said Freddie Freeman. “If one person is going to get out of that, you feel like it’s going to be Kersh.

“He continues to do it year in and year out. It’s absolutely incredible. When we needed him the most, he did it again. He’s been doing that for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008. And we needed him 15 years later to do it again.”

Over the course of his illustrious career, Kershaw has pitched to many catchers, with players like A.J. Ellis and Austin Barnes being his most memorable battery mates. Will Smith has been catching Kershaw since making his MLB debut in 2019, and he too marveled at the ability to get out of a jam.

“He just really bears down and competes,” Smith said. “Just never gives in and he knows how to get out of situations. There’s no exact formula how to do it, but he just kind of gets it done. He wills it to get done.

“It’s just not giving a hitter anything to hit, never giving in to what they do well. If you fall behind, you’re still not giving in. He does it almost better than anybody.”

Kershaw’s seven shutout innings were also a balm for a Dodgers bullpen that has struggled mightily this season. Heading into the opener of the Freeway Series, the group ranked 29th in the Majors with a 5.04 ERA.

For Dodgers manager Dave Roberts, Kershaw’s timely performance was nothing surprising.

“I think it’s hard for me to gain any more respect for Clayton, but given the state of our roster, certainly the pitching, and now you layer in starting pitching, right now he’s the only one standing from Opening Day,” Roberts said.

“So for him to obviously realize that and accept the responsibility but not add pressure to himself, it’s a skill that’s certainly been tested and learned. The way he goes about things, he’s just so consistent. I just can’t imagine where we would be without him.”

Roberts also acknowledged the responsibility that Kershaw placed on himself, given the injuries and bullpen struggles.

“You look at who he is, what he’s done, how he’s throwing the baseball, the responsibility is going short in his outings is unacceptable,” Roberts said. “It’s not an option. That’s a heavy burden, but he embraces that.”

Kershaw improved to 10-2 with a 1.99 ERA in his career against the Angels. Kershaw’s ERA is lowest against any team in which he has made at least 15 starts against.

Freddie Freeman not surprised by Clayton Kershaw

Kershaw continues to pitch at a high level despite being in his 16th season, which doesn’t come as a surprise to Freeman.

“I don’t think so, just because of who he is,” answered Freeman when asked if Kershaw’s prolonged success boggles his mind. “And his pitch repertoire and what he does between starts. It’s just amazing. He’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

“It’s fun to be able to play behind and not be in the box anymore, because I’ve been on the wrong side of that with second and third, no outs, a lot of times. He’s just an incredible pitcher, an incredible person. On and off the field he’s doing it.”

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