Clayton Kershaw only lost three times last year. He’s already matched that total in 2015.
With Los Angeles’ offense showing signs of improvement, Kershaw attempts to begin turning things around Tuesday night when the Dodgers face the Atlanta Braves.
Los Angeles (27-17) went 23-4 when giving the ball to Kershaw last season, and his importance was acknowledged with NL MVP honors and a third Cy Young Award.
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Things aren’t going so well for Kershaw (2-3, 4.32 ERA) in 2015. The Dodgers have lost five of his nine starts, he’s yielded at least two runs in each and has allowed opponents to hit .251 with six homers and 16 walks.
Last year, the left-hander held batters to a .196 average with nine homers and a career-low 31 walks.
Kershaw allowed four runs in 7 1-3 innings of Thursday’s 4-0 loss at San Francisco. He served up a solo homer to Giants starter Madison Bumgarner, the first he’s given up to an opposing pitcher in his eight-year career.
"You never want to say you’re worried," Kershaw told MLB’s official website. "We haven’t gotten everybody going at the same time, me included."
The Dodgers, though, may have started to get their bats going, collecting 11 hits with three homers in a 6-3 win over Atlanta (22-22) in Monday’s opener. They were hitting .190 with three homers and nine runs while dropping five of the previous eight.
Andre Ethier has five hits in four games after going 2 for 3 with a homer and two RBIs on Monday. He’s batting .410 (16 for 39) in the past 12 home games, and has grabbed the starting spot in right field against right-handers with Yasiel Puig on the disabled list.
"Andre has backed it up and he deserves to be playing every day," manager Don Mattingly said.
Ethier will face Julio Teheran (4-1, 3.91) for the first time, and the right-hander is getting the ball opposite Kershaw for the first time since they both went the distance in a 2-1 home win for the Dodgers on July 31. Teheran tossed a five-hitter while Kershaw yielded nine hits in his first meeting with the Braves since 2011.
Teheran wasn’t nearly that effective in his only other start against Los Angeles, surrendering five runs and nine hits in 7 1-3 innings of a 6-2 defeat Aug. 11.
He enters this one after his best effort of the season. He allowed one run and two hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings of a 10-1 win over Milwaukee on Thursday, the third time in four outings he’s yielded fewer than two earned runs.
Teheran had a 7.20 ERA over his previous three games.
"When a pitcher rallies with three of four starts like that, you’ve got to feel good about it," manager Fredi Gonzalez said.
Monday’s loss was just Atlanta’s third in the past 10 games. However, the Braves have lost seven of the past eight meetings with the Dodgers, and are facing the possibility of a five-game skid at Chavez Ravine for the first time since June 6-July 29, 1990.
Freddie Freeman is hitting .378 in his past nine games there, and he’s 2 for 6 with a homer versus Kershaw.