On top of his game early in his 14th major league season, Clayton Kershaw’s next challenge is to deliver again against the team he just faced.
The Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander will face the San Diego Padres for the second time in six days. The outing comes one day after the Dodgers fell 3-2 in the opener of a four-game series against the Padres at Los Angeles.
The Dodgers will need to lean into a pitcher who has delivered so much for them over his historic career. Los Angeles has lost three of its last four and is now 2-2 against the Padres in what has been a competitive season series so far.
Thursday’s game will be the second matchup in a week between Kershaw and Padres right-hander Yu Darvish, with the Dodgers getting the better of the initial meeting, a 2-0 victory at San Diego on Saturday.
Kershaw gave up just two hits over six scoreless innings in that one, and he has managed to improve each time out this season. The future Hall of Famer had a rare Opening Day clunker on April 1 at Colorado, but has given up one combined run over his last three outings, leading to his season-high 98 pitches last weekend.
Yet he needed more than just his arm to get past what is expected to be the Dodgers’ main challenger in the National League West. Kershaw also worked a bases-loaded walk against Darvish in the fifth inning to break a scoreless tie. It was the only run either starter allowed.
“Just trying to be annoying, really,” said Kershaw, who fouled off two pitches with two strikes. “I wasn’t going to get a hit off him, he’s got too good of stuff. So it was just kind of trying to be a nuisance as best you can and fouling off pitches and making him work a little bit.”
Darvish knows all about Kershaw’s will to win, with the two serving as teammates with the Dodgers for three months in 2017, including the playoffs.
Darvish also has improved on a so-so opener, with three consecutive strong starts culminating in his stellar seven-inning, nine-strikeout performance in the loss to the Dodgers on Saturday. He will try not to dwell on his run-scoring walk to Kershaw, which came after a walk to Austin Barnes.
“It wasn’t like I lost concentration there,” Darvish said. “I felt like I had good focus. Things like that happen. It’s just part of the game.”
Darvish has shown he knows how to turn the page. He will return to the same mound where he was the losing pitcher for the home team in Game 7 of the 2017 World Series against the Houston Astros.
Darvish has pitched in Los Angeles just once since that day and it was a beauty, giving up one run on two hits over seven innings with 10 strikeouts for the Chicago Cubs in his team’s 2-1 victory in June 2019.
In his two career starts against the Dodgers, Darvish is 0-1 with a 1.29 ERA in 14 innings. Kershaw has made 41 career starts against the Padres, going 22-7 with a 1.99 ERA in 267 innings. The .759 winning percentage is his best against any NL West club.
–Field Level Media