MLB: Clayton Kershaw does something he hasn’t done in four years

The Los Angeles Dodgers entered their four-game series against the Cubs after being swept by the Padres in San Diego. The set with Chicago opened Thursday with LA without a hit or run. Japanese manager Dave Roberts summed up what his team was feeling after that demoralizing run as “shame.”

Rather than wallow in it, it seems his club found a way to translate that sense of shame into a motivating force. The Dodgers turned things around in a big way over the next three games, culminating in a 7-1 slate win over the Los Angeles. Chicago Cubs today Sunday, to ensure a victory in the series against one of the best clubs in the National League:

The victory was driven primarily by the veteran left-hander’s best start. Clayton kershaw in 2021 until now. Kershaw struck out 13 batters in eight one-run innings. It was a classic for the southpaw, who last struck out at least 13 batters on July 9, 2017 against the Royals. He hadn’t completed eight innings in an opening since August 2018, when he did it twice.

In fact, Kershaw was as ready and in control as he has been all season, with 70 of his 101 pitches for strikes. He routinely cheated on Cubs hitters, who struck 26 unsuccessfully, including 22 against the slider. It was the most missed swings Kershaw has induced this season, and the fifth most in his career. All of his strikeouts came with sliders or curve balls.

Kershaw gave him some credit to the game’s start time in the late afternoon, noting that the shadows at the plate might have helped him a bit by making his pitches harder for hitters to catch. Roberts, however, played down its impact.

At 33, Kershaw, once almost universally considered the best pitcher in the game, is still finding ways to impress. His 124 strikeouts rank third in the National League and he has the third-best K-BB rate (6.89). His 2.8 fWAR this season is tied for fourth among all major league pitchers. He may no longer be a perennial Cy Young candidate, but he’s showing that he still deserves the title of “ace.”

And Kershaw’s teammates will tell you that he brings out the best in them too. Zach McKinstry, who gave Kershaw all the support he needed with the first grand slam of his career, noted how the lefty’s influence impacts the club as a whole.

It may interest you: This Kershaw said about teammate Joe Kelly vs Astros rivalry

Of course, because this is baseball in 2021, Kershaw’s start also featured a couple of now-routine checks by umpires for foreign substances, which he approved, including the one he received when he walked out to a standing ovation. foot in the mid-eighth.