Clayton Kershaw has worst start, Dodgers swept by Cubs

Clayton Kershaw has worst start Dodgers swept by Cubs

Clayton Kershaw, his hair wet on a frigid afternoon, blankly stared ahead from his seat in the Dodgers’ dugout Wednesday at Wrigley Field. The Dodgers and Chicago Cubs were about to begin the second inning and — for the first time in his 14-year career — Kershaw’s start wouldn’t continue beyond the first.

Kershaw’s outing ended after a disastrous inning in the Dodgers’ 7-1 loss in the first game of a seven-inning split doubleheader. He gave up four runs and threw 39 pitches in his shortest start of his career.

“It’s embarrassing,” Kershaw said. “No excuses. That was horrible.”

It was the first chapter in another forgettable day, perhaps the lowest in a recent series of low ones, for the skidding Dodgers. Their offense finally came to life late in the second game, but the Cubs rebounded to win 4-3 on David Bote’s walk-off single in the ninth inning to take both games from the Dodgers with Kershaw and Trevor Bauer on the mound.

The sweep plummeted the Dodgers to 17-14. They are 4-12 since starting the season since 13-2. That’s the worst record in the National League during the stretch.

“I think if you look at how they’re playing baseball, it’s just not all-around, all-facets-of-the-game executing,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So that’s what happens when you don’t do that.”

The Dodgers were, on paper, set up to continue where they left off from their rout of the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday. The Cubs (13-16) owned the highest starters’ earned-run average in the majors entering the day. Kershaw and Bauer have been two of the best starters in the majors this season.

Kershaw had given up four runs in his previous five starts. He matched that in the first inning Tuesday. It was the first time he’s given up four runs in an inning since he yielded four runs in an inning on Sept. 18, 2017 against the Philadelphia Phillies. It was the second time he’s given up at least four runs in the first inning; he surrendered five against the Nationals on Aug. 28, 2008.

The dreadful performance came on the 11th anniversary of him logging 11/3 innings against the Brewers in 2010. That had been the shortest outing of his career.

The big hit off Kershaw was a bases-loaded double by Bote off the ivy in left field.

After the inning, Kershaw and Roberts had a lengthy conversation in the dugout. Kershaw, a jacket draped over his left arm, didn’t plead his case to stay in the game.

“Obviously that’s Doc’s decision,” Kershaw said. “And when you’re not pitching well, you don’t really have much skin in the game to make that call. Obviously, I would’ve liked to continue to go and try and be better, but when you’re that bad, you really can’t stand up for yourself too much.”

Roberts said Kershaw is healthy. He didn’t believe there was any “upside” in having him continue.

The Dodgers’ scored their only run on Keibert Ruiz’s pinch-hit home run off Kyle Hendricks in the seventh inning, ensuring that they wouldn’t get shut out for the first time this season.

There was a similar situation in the nightcap. Matt Beaty, one of the Dodgers’ hottest hitters, didn’t take an at-bat in the doubleheader. His only appearance came when he was announced as a pinch-hitter to lead off the sixth inning but was replaced when the Cubs responded by inserting left-hander Andrew Chafin. Roberts countered with the right-handed-hitting Sheldon Neuse. He struck out.

The Cubs held a 1-0 lead in the seventh inning on Jason Heyward’s solo home run in the fourth inning off Bauer, who threw a season-low 90 pitches. Max Muncy then skied a solo home run off Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel with one out for his first homer since April 15. It was the first earned run Kimbrel gave up this season.

The Dodgers padded the lead in the eighth. Edwin Ríos, after starting the extra inning at second base, scored on a wild pitch. Justin Turner followed with a pinch-hit homer.

The lead evaporated when Javy Báez, down to the Cubs’ final out, smashed a game-tying two-run home run through the stiff wind against Mitch White. The Cubs had been 0 for 17 with runners in scoring position until Báez’s blast.

Left-hander Garrett Cleavinger, the Dodgers’ fifth reliever in Game 2 and eighth on the day, was given the ball in the ninth inning because Scott Alexander, one of the Dodgers’ best relievers this season, was unavailable due to soreness. Anthony Rizzo led off the inning with a groundout, moving Kris Bryant, who began the inning at second base, to third base.

That brought up Bote, a right-handed hitter, with Heyward, a left-handed hitter, on deck. Roberts said he contemplated intentionally walking Bote to set up the double play and a lefty-lefty matchup. Cleavinger was instructed to pitch around Bote. He didn’t and Bote swatted a ball over Mookie Betts’ head in right field to seal another Dodgers loss.

Chicago Cubs’ David Bote watches his game winning RBI single off Dodgers relief pitcher Garrett Cleavinger during the ninth inning on Tuesday in Chicago. The Cubs won 4-3.

(Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

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