It happens in baseball. In fact, it happens so often that most fans don’t even realize it or pay it little attention – giving up a home run on an 0-2 count. But it just doesn’t happen to Clayton Kershaw’s unhittable curveball – “Uncle Charlie,” “Lord Charles,” or as Hall of Fame broadcaster Vin Scully calls it – “Public Enemy Number One.”
Well it did happen. It happened for the first time in a regular season game off of Kershaw since… well, ever. And to make matters worse, it was hit by Giants second baseman Brandon Hicks, who entered Sunday’s game hitting only .198 on the season.
“We played really good,” said Kershaw after Sunday’s heartbreaking 7-4 loss in 10 innings. “Guys made plays, got clutch hits, played the game the right way. For me to give up the home run after we got the lead, I kind of gave it up there. For me, personally, I’ve got to shut it down right there.”
That is so Kershaw-like. The guy goes seven innings for the second time in as many starts (he went 6.2 innings in the other one), allows only three runs on seven hits while striking out nine and walking none. His ERA has soared to an unfathomable (ya right) 1.74. Unfortunately, it seems as though Kershaw has to throw a shutout in order to get a win because of a Dodgers offense that has yet to click on a consistent basis.
Kershaw left the game down 3-2 in the 7th inning poised for his first loss of the season, especially after Chris Withrow issued a one-out walk in the 9th that would come around to score to give the Giants a 4-2 lead. But in true dramatic style and down to their final out, Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez absolutely smoked a Sergio Romo slider over the left field wall for a two-run home run to tie the game 4-4. The Dodgers, however, were unable to capitalize on the huge momentum change when Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen completely unraveled in the top of the 10th inning allowing two walks, three hits and two wild pitches in only 0.1 inning. When the dust had settled, the Giants had cashed in three runs to take a backbreaking 7-4 lead. Left-hander J.P. Howell was brought in to mop up, but the damage was done.
“I messed up,” Jansen said. “Right now there ain’t no panic in me. Nothing. I never panic. I’m just going to go out there and just keep competing. I know who I am and I know what kind of stuff I have. It’s really frustrating when guys get back in that game and three runs scored in the 10th, that cannot happen. I’ll take it on me and hopefully these guys come back tomorrow and I get back in there and close the game out.”
While this is absolutely the right ‘closer mentality’ to have, it might not be all that simple. The Dodgers bullpen is now responsible for 11 of the team’s 19 losses, which ranks first (as in worst) in all of baseball. They have also now allowed 74 walks, which is second in all of baseball and first in the National League by 21 over the lowly Chicago Cubs.
Having Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke on the mound every fifth day respectively is about as automatic as it can get, but it is unreasonable to expect them to carry the team on their backs; and unless the Dodgers offense starts hitting on a regular basis and unless the Dodgers bullpen turns things around and soon, it could be a very long and miserable summer in Los Angeles.