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. Kershaw and Trevor Bauer, the Dodgers’ starter in the second game, have been two of the best pitchers in the majors this season. But the starters didn’t provide length, the defense was sloppy and the offense floundered again.
“It just starts with taking care of the little details,” Bauer said, “and trusting that if you do the little things right then ultimately the whole picture will look a lot better.”
Kershaw had given up four runs in his previous five starts combined before Tuesday’s debacle. It was the first time he’s given up four runs in an inning since he yielded four in an inning in September 2017 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
The forgettable performance came on the 11th anniversary of him logging 11/3 innings against the Milwaukee Brewers in 2010. That had been the shortest outing of his career.
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. Roberts said Kershaw is healthy, but he didn’t believe there was any “upside” in having him continue.
“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.”
The Dodgers scored their only run in Game 1 on Keibert Ruiz’s pinch-hit home run off Kyle Hendricks in the seventh inning in Ruiz’s first at-bat of the year, ensuring they wouldn’t get shut out for the first time this season.
A similar situation surfaced in the nightcap when the Dodgers didn’t have Justin Turner or Matt Beaty, two of their hottest hitters, in their lineup.
Turner was given the game off to rest despite playing just 31/2 innings Sunday, benefiting from an unscheduled day off Monday and Thursday’s looming off day.
While Turner eventually appeared, Beaty, two days removed from erupting for seven RBIs, 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 in the second game. The Cubs responded by inserting left-hander Andrew Chafin and Roberts countered by replacing Beaty with the right-handed-hitting Sheldon Neuse, who struck out.
The Cubs took a 1-0 lead on Jason Heyward’s home run in the fourth inning off Bauer, who threw 90 pitches in a season-low 41/3 innings.
Three innings later, with the Dodgers down to their last two outs, Max Muncy skied a solo home run off Cubs closer Craig Kimbrel to extend the game, his first homer since April 15 and the first earned run Kimbrel has surrendered this season.
The Dodgers made it 3-1 in the eighth. Edwin Ríos, starting the extra inning at second base, scored on a wild pitch. Turner followed with a pinch-hit, solo home run.
The margin evaporated when Javy Báez, down to the Cubs’ final out, smashed a game-tying, two-run home run off Mitch White through the stiff wind. 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, was unavailable because of 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 batter, on deck. Roberts said he contemplated intentionally walking Bote to set up the double play and a left-hander-left-hander matchup. Instead, Cleavinger was instructed to pitch around Bote. He didn’t, and Bote swatted a ball over Mookie Betts’ head in right field to end another bad day for the Dodgers.