Originally published by DodgerBlue.com
Coming off a 2020 debut that was a success in every way, expectations remained high when Clayton Kershaw took the mound Saturday night. He started opposite Johnny Cueto, which was the expected pitching matchup when the Los Angeles Dodgers faced the San Francisco Giants on Opening Day.
For as well as Kershaw fared against the Arizona Diamondbacks, he struggled in his second start of the season. The left-hander failed to miss many bats against an aggressive Giants lineup, and mistake pitches amounted to a double and three home runs surrendered in 4.1 innings pitched.
Two of the homers were hit by Austin Slater. “Just mistake pitches. I left some balls over the middle that he did a good job with,” Kershaw said.
He was not surprised by the Giants’ attacking early in counts and credited their batters for hanging tough even when down to their final strike. “They did a good job. Two strikes, they battled, had good at-bats. They did a good job all the way through,” Kershaw said.
If there was one parallel to be found from Kershaw’s two outings thus far, his velocity remained a tick above the level it was at the past few seasons. “My command wasn’t quite as good tonight,” Kershaw dully noted.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts felt there were stretches where Kershaw did pitch well, such as in the second and fourth innings. Of course, the damage was done by the top of the Giants’ lineup in the third and fifth innings. There were also loud outs in the first.
“I thought they did a very good job of spoiling some pitches. (Mike) Yastrzemski hitting third for that club against left, right, he sees a lot of pitches. When you leave something up and out over, he can slug you,” Roberts said.
“I thought Slater got a couple mistakes. Not too many, but hit homers with them. The last slider to Yastrzemski that drove in a run, I thought it was actually a pretty good breaking ball. He stayed in there and rode it out. Solano is swinging a good bat. They do a nice job.”
Kershaw surrendering three home runs in the start was reminiscent of the issue that plagued him throughout 2019, which some speculated was due to a different baseball being put into play. Regardless, Roberts was not concerned by the amount of homers the Giants hit.
“His first outing was pretty much flawless,” Roberts said. “When you make mistakes to good hitters, that’s what’s going to happen. We expect him to execute considerably more than he doesn’t, so we’ll be fine.”
Turner disappointed to let Kershaw down
While Kershaw was laboring his way through a short start, Cueto no-hit the Dodgers through five innings. Hunter Pence losing a routine fly ball that resulted in a leadoff triple for Kiké Hernandez was the Dodgers’ first hit.
Austin Barnes cashed it in with an RBI groundout, and Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger each walked later in the inning. Justin Turner’s first home run of the season got the Dodgers to within 5-4, but they stalled from there.
“With our offense we expect to score more runs than we did. Clayton didn’t have his best stuff but I thought he had a really good approach against them. We’ve got to be able to pick him up there,” Turner said.
“So many times he keeps us in games, and when he doesn’t have his best stuff, we need to do a better job of scoring more runs for him.”
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