Kershaw cruises in Dodgers' win
Rookie left-hander strikes out seven in six innings vs. Rockies
DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw, No. 22, lockers on the road next to Derek Lowe, No. 23. But their approach to pitching in Coors Field is a million miles apart.
Lowe is so spooked by the Mile High home of the Rockies, he simply won't pitch here, and the club now juggles the rotation to make sure of it.
Kershaw pitched here just fine Saturday night, allowing only one run for six innings in a 5-1 win over the Rockies, the Dodgers' 12th win in the past 13 games as their magic number was whittled to 11.
Kershaw, 20, struck out seven with two walks and allowed only four hits, none for extra bases. Quite a turnaround from the kind of Coors Field debut on July 22 that could leave a 20-year-old scarred for life -- three innings, 10 hits, five runs, three walks.
That's the Coors Field Lowe is talking about, but Kershaw isn't listening. Kershaw blamed that outing on the location of his pitches, not the location of the game. He said that start wouldn't affect this one, and he went out and proved it.
"I've always heard about Coors Field and I've even heard pitchers who have never pitched here talk about how you can't pitch here," said Kershaw (4-5). "For me, I've got to see it to believe it. I'm like, there's got to be a reason. Guys say the ball flies here, it jumps off the bat. Obviously, there's some truth to it. At the same time, it's still baseball. I try not to think of stuff like that. It just messes you up."
So on the heels of another strong outing by 15-game winner Chad Billingsley, Kershaw gave the Dodgers back-to-back winning starts by their former first-round Draft picks, apparently for the first time since Rick Sutcliffe and Bob Welch, Sept. 19-20, 1979.
Kershaw, who also was coming off a four-inning losing mess Sunday, took satisfaction in the adjustments he made from that first Coors Field start, which also was his first start after being recalled from a three-week refresher course at Double-A.
"Tonight, I was throwing breaking balls for strikes," he said. "They're a pretty aggressive, fastball-hitting team. They were able to sit on one pitch my last start here and that got me in trouble. My curveball was better tonight."
Kershaw said he was conscious of his mechanics, particularly extending his motion on his curveball for the tight spin that's necessary in Denver's thin air.
"I got my curveball a little more out in front this time," he said. "It might not be the big 12-to-6, but it gets over for strikes. You can't leave it behind your head."
Having mastered a new grip on the changeup with input from Greg Maddux, he threw only two of them, but was pleased to report both were strikes. He's lacked confidence to throw his third-best pitch in past games but said this time the curveball was working so well along with the 94-mph fastball, he didn't need the changeup.
In their seventh consecutive defeat, the Rockies scored only one run off Kershaw from a two-out walk in the third inning to Willy Taveras, who stole second on a bouncing curveball and scored on Clint Barmes' single through the box.
The Dodgers' offense -- even with Andre Ethier taking leave to attend the birth of his child -- gave Kershaw plenty to work with against Jorge De La Rosa.
Casey Blake slugged his ninth home run as a Dodger leading off the second inning and the bottom of the order set up a three-run fourth inning with a single by Matt Kemp, a walk by Blake DeWitt and the first of two doubles by Angel Berroa for an RBI. Russell Martin singled in a run and Juan Pierre brought in another with a sacrifice fly.
Berroa set up the final Dodgers run in the sixth inning, following another DeWitt walk with another double, and DeWitt scored on Martin's groundout.
Rain was falling and wind gusting in the late innings, while the Dodgers bullpen was typically overpowering. Chan Ho Park struck out four in two innings and Jonathan Broxton struck out two in one inning.
Dodgers manager Joe Torre said he went with Broxton in the ninth for what he defines as a save situation -- a four-run lead in Coors Field. But he also was warming up Takashi Saito, activated before the game after missing two months with a partially torn elbow ligament.
"If we had scored a couple more runs, I was thinking about it, although I'm not sure in this weather," Torre said. "The first time out, after arm problems, getting loose ... evidently, he had no problems getting loose."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.