Clayton Kershaw made his 2019 regular season debut last night vs the Cincinnati Reds. Kershaw went seven innings allowing five hits, two runs, zero walks, while striking out six on 84 pitches in the Dodgers 4-3 win. While Kershaw did not get the win last night, Dodger fans have a lot to be excited about after watching him pitch.
Image: Clayton Kershaw making his season debut on Jackie Robinson Day at Dodgers Stadium vs the Cincinnati Reds / Photo Credit: Sports Illustrated.com
His first inning got off to a shaky start. He allowed a single to Eugenio Suarez on a hard hit ground ball, then came Yasiel Puig. Kershaw had gotten Puig to two strikes, however Puig got the best of him launching a 1-2 slider over the center field wall for a two run home run. Kershaw kept his composure after giving up the homer, and got the next two batters out, one via a ground out and the other via strikeout to end the inning.
Image: Kershaw reacts after giving up a home run to Yasiel Puig / Photo Credit: DodgerBlue.com
After the rough first inning, Kershaw began to settle in and started to look similar to the pitcher that Dodgers fans have known and loved over the past 11 years. Kershaw only allowed three hits between innings two through seven, and only two of those balls were hit hard. Kershaw was able to mix up his off speed pitches and keep hitter off balance, while only using the fastball when he wanted to change the timing of the hitters. The pitch I thought looked the best was the curveball. The pitch had great movement, still had good velocity for a breaking ball, and was able to fool hitters on multiple occasions.
Image: Kershaw reacts after finishing an inning during his season debut / Photo Credit: CBS Los Angeles.com
Kershaw has dealt with injuries in each of the past five seasons, including shoulder, back, and neck injuries that have caused him to miss a considerable amount of time. The ace has only been able to throw over 200 innings once since the 2014 season (2015 – 232.1 innings pitched). His injuries have also affected how he pitches. His average fastball velocity has dropped every year since 2014, and he has seen a rise in his ERA, home runs per nine innings, and WHIP (walks and hits per innings pitched).
Image: Dodgers manager Dave Roberts and the Dodgers lead trainer come out to check on Kershaw during a game in July of 2017 / Photo Credit: NY Post.com
While he is only 31 years old, Kershaw is considered to be in the second half of his career. He is not the same pitcher he was five years ago, and if he wants to continue his career at a high level, he is going to have to learn how to use his off speed pitches more than relying on his fastball. Yesterday was a great start to the 2019 season, but it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. I believe this year more than any other, Kershaw is determined to get the job done and bring a world championship back to Los Angeles.