The long-awaited bronze statue of Sandy Koufax will be unveiled Saturday in the Centerfield Pavilion at Dodger Stadium.
Koufax retired in 1966. Should the Dodgers take as long to create a statue for their current left-handed pitcher who has posted similar career numbers, Clayton Kershaw would have his unveiled in, oh, 2078 or so.
Not that Kershaw is pitching like someone on the verge of retirement. Making his second start since spending five weeks on the injured list with lower back inflammation, the 15-year veteran was sharp in a five-inning outing Friday night against the Cleveland Guardians, giving up one run and leaving with the score tied.
Cody Bellinger’s second-inning home run was all the offense the Dodgers could muster, however, in a frustrating 2-1, 10-inning loss in which they went one for 13 with runners in scoring position.
“It’s a long season and we are going to go through droughts,” Bellinger said. “It’s not because of a lack of effort or preparation.”
Kershaw threw 81 pitches — 56 for strikes — and his earned-run average dropped to 2.08. Manager Dave Roberts said before the game Kershaw would go “five and 75,” meaning five innings and 75 pitches, but he reached 74 pitches in four innings because the Dodgers failed to make three difficult plays in the fourth.
Jose Ramírez led off the inning beating by a half-step a ground ball to third baseman Justin Turner’s backhand. Left fielder Chris Taylor didn’t catch a foul fly after sliding near the wall in foul territory with two on, and second baseman Gavin Lux couldn’t quite corral a sharp ground ball with two out.
The Guardians scored only one run to tie the game, but the resulting 26-pitch inning forced Roberts to make a difficult decision. Kershaw did take the mound in the fifth and needed only seven pitches to retire the side in order with right fielder Eddy Alvarez making a fine running catch for the second out.
“Kersh looked good to me from center field,” Bellinger said. “His arsenal looks the same as always. He competes.”
The Dodgers hit the ball hard against Guardians starter Zach Plesac, but only Bellinger’s homer did damage. Plesac gave up five hits and walked two while striking out only one in six innings.
Scoring opportunities continued against the Cleveland bullpen. Pinch-hitter Hanser Alberto opened the Dodgers seventh with a single. With one out, Trea Turner — batting leadoff because Mookie Betts was sidelined with a sore rib — beat out a slow roller for his third hit, but Freddie Freeman grounded into a double play.
In the ninth, Bellinger singled, stole second, and took third when right fielder Oscar Gonzalez dropped Alberto’s fly ball with one out. Lux struck out and Trea Turner flied out to Gonzalez to send the game into extra innings.
Beginning the 10th with a runner on second base, the Guardians scored on a sacrifice fly. The Dodgers had Trea Turner on second to start the bottom of the inning, but Justin Turner struck out to end the game.
“We barreled a lot of baseballs in the first four innings then struggled,” Roberts said.
“Right now we just aren’t getting the job done.”
On Saturday, the focus will shift to Koufax, whose statue unveiling was scheduled for 2020 but postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although Koufax, 86, is famously reclusive, the three-time Cy Young Award winner and two-time World Series most valuable player will be in attendance along with his wife, Jane. His statue will pair with the one of Jackie Robinson unveiled in 2017.
“First with Sandy, there is humility,” said Roberts, who considers Koufax a good friend. “I’m excited to see him and it’s going to be a special moment.”
Andrew Heaney is good to go
Left-hander Andrew Heaney has emerged from three rehab starts ready to rejoin the Dodgers for the first time in two months. He is expected to start Sunday.
Heaney showed great promise in two April starts, allowing zero earned runs in 101/3 innings while striking out 16.
“I want to pick up where I left off,” he said.
Stars come out
The Dodgers Foundation Blue Diamond Gala was held Thursday night at Dodger Stadium with proceeds benefiting the organization’s community programs aimed at improving education, health care, and social justice. Jennifer Lopez provided the entertainment.
Many Dodgers players attended the gala with their spouses and partners. The event, which hadn’t taken place the last two years because of the pandemic, raised $3.6 million.
“Everyone turned out,” Roberts said. “Everyone was dressed to the nines, the concert was great and we made a lot of money for a good cause.”