Kershaw Struggles, Ruiz Breaks Up Shutout – 5/4/21

Kershaw Struggles, Ruiz Breaks Up Shutout – Game Recap 5/4/21

Coming off of a double grand slam game Sunday and a rain delay on Monday, the Dodgers were expected to make quick work of Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks, who came into the game with a double-digit ERA.  But Clayton Kershaw struggled mighty in the first inning, and the Dodger bats were uneven as usual.  It came down to Dodger prospect Keibert Ruiz to break up the shutout in a seventh-inning pinch-hit.

First Inning Nightmare

In the top of the first, Mookie Betts reached on a throwing error from shortstop Javier Báez but was eliminated from the bases when Corey Seager grounded into a double play.  Turner also ground out to Báez to end the inning.

Here starts the latest Dodger nightmare.  Kershaw started strong, striking out leadoff hitter Wilson Contreras in three pitches.  After getting up to a 0-2 count, Kris Bryant hits a wildly curving, bouncing ground-rule double down the left-field line.  Bryant reached home on a sharply hit single by Anthony Rizzo.  The next batter, Javier Báez, walked in eight pitches. Matt Duffy hits a ground ball practically through the leather of Seager’s glove, but A.J. Pollock covered fast enough to keep a run from crossing the plate.

At the next at-bat, David Bote hit a bases-clearing double, making the score 0-4, Cubs. 

A walk and a wild pitch puts Jake Marsnick on first and Bote on third.  Kershaw gets Ildemaro Vargas out swinging, but not before Marsnick stole second base.  The inning ended on pitcher Kyle Hendricks’s flyout to center.  Kershaw wrapped his arm as if he was going back out, but after a deep conversation with Dave Roberts, his day was over.  With David Price and Tony Gonsolin still on the IL and Dustin May scheduled for Tommy John, it’s no surprise that Doc is playing it safe with starting pitching.  

Kershaw threw 39 pitches and gave up four hits, four runs, and two walks.  

Ducks On the Pond

In the second inning, Muncy reached after a hit by pitch from Cubs pitcher Kyle Hendricks.  Chris Taylor struck out swinging, and Pollock flew out to center.  Lux hit a bouncing grounder single to short, and between the ball slowing down and Muncy’s good jump, Max reaches second safely with ease.  They were both left on base when Barnes struck out looking.

Dennis Santana came on for Kershaw in the bottom of the second.  He walked Contreras.  Byant hit a grounder into what should have been a double play, but the Dodgers only get one out.  Lux’s turning throw to first was off balance and so far off the mark that Bryant advanced to second.  The next two batters flew out, so Bryant was left on base at the end of the inning.

Santana lead off the third at the plate, striking out in three pitches.  Mookie hit a bouncing single through the shift to get on.  Seager flew out on the first pitch he saw, but Turner earned a five-pitch walk to move Mookie into scoring position.  Both were left on base when Muncy struck out swinging.

Cubs Score Again

For the bottom of the third, Santana got two quick flyouts but hit Marisnick with a sinker to put him on first. Vargas singled during the next at-bat, moving Marisnick over to third.  During Hendricks’s at-bat, Vargas stole second.  Both the HBP and the stolen base came back to bite Santana hard.  He threw a wild pitch that skipped away from Barnes.  Santana was slow to cover, and Barnes’s wild throw to the plate ricocheted off him, allowing both Marisnick and Vargas to score.  Hendrick grounded out, but not before the Dodgers were down to the Cubs 0-6.

Santana threw 14 pitches in both of his innings with very different results. He relied heavily on his singer, throwing it for twenty of his twenty-eight pitches.

For the top of the fourth, the Dodgers one more managed to put two men on base with Lux and Barnes both reaching on first pitch sinkers for singles.  Both men were stranded when Ríos pinch-hit for the pitcher’s spot and struck out.  Ríos’s batting average is now .083 for the season with one single RBI.

Inexorable March Towards a Shutout

Jimmy Nelson came in for the Dodgers in the bottom of the fourth and struck out all three batters in seventeen pitches, the first 1-2-3 inning for Dodger pitching in the game so far.  

Hendricks responded by setting down the Dodgers 1-2-3 in seven pitches.

In his second game this season, Dodger pitcher Alex Vesia faced the minimum in the fifth in 20 pitches.

Hendricks responded by striking Max Muncy out on three pitches.  Taylor hit a single, but Pollock flew out in one pitch, and Lux hit into a force out.  A ten pitch inning for Hendricks

Vesia came back out for the bottom of the sixth inning and gave up a leadoff home run on a fastball to Marisnick.  He set the next three down in order, but the score was 0-7, heading into the seventh and final inning.

Ruiz Breaks Up Shutout

After Dodgers catcher Barnes popped out to Cubs catcher Contreras in foul territory, another catcher entered the game.  Number one Dodgers prospect Keibert Ruiz pinch-hit for the pitcher spot and blasted a solo homer into the stands on the very first pitch of his first 2021 at-bat.  He broke up the shutout and started what looked like a promising rally.  Betts lined into a single, and Seager reached on a two-error play from Javier Báez.  Mookie moved to third.  The first “Let’s Go Dodgers” resounded through the stadium, breaking up the pallor laying over the local Dodger fans since Kershaw left the field.

The rally was cut short when Turner grounded into a double play that Báez did not bobble.

Dodgers lost 1-7.  They now go into a short rest and return to play the second game of the doubleheader tonight at 4:40 pm.  Hopefully, they will be able to build upon the momentum Ruiz started to break up the shutout and carry that into the second game.

Kershaw’s first-inning struggles are concerning, but so is the continued lagging offense.  Some good news, however.  Doc Roberts said that Brusdar Graterol’s MRI came back with no structural damage.  Great to hear, considering how beaten up the pitching staff is lately.

To read about Sunday’s win against the Brewers, click here.

Photo Credit: Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

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