LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw’s first game after a 30-day layoff produced familiar results.
The Dodgers’ offense could not support him.
Philadelphia Phillies right-hander Aaron Nola limited the Dodgers to two hits over seven innings in a 2-1 loss. The Dodgers (26-30) and Phillies (31-23) split the four-game series.
A single by Scott Kingery, followed by a double by Jorge Alfaro, gave the Phillies the go-ahead run in a 1-1 game. Those were the only hits allowed by Dodgers pitcher Josh Fields (2-2) in one inning before the announced crowd of 40,986 at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw gave the Dodgers all they could have hoped for. He had not pitched since May 1, after which he was sidelined by tendinitis in his left biceps. Kershaw pitched four simulated innings against teammates Saturday but did not make a minor league rehabilitation appearance, as was his option.
Manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw did not want to “waste his bullets” against minor league hitters, so to speak. Kershaw is 30 years old and “knows his body and knows his stuff,” Roberts said, so the manager deferred to the veteran.
“If he feels healthy and if he can execute pitches,” Roberts said.
Execution was not an issue for Kershaw. If it was, the Phillies did not seem to notice.
Kershaw allowed four hits and one run in five innings, walked one batter and struck out five. He contained the damage to one inning, and otherwise never allowed a runner past first base. In his final inning, he struck out the side without throwing a single fastball. Kershaw threw 62 pitches in all and was removed when it became his turn to bat in the bottom of the fifth.
Health was another question.
For whatever reason, Kershaw did not have the same zip on his fastball in his 300th career start as he did in any of the first 299. According to MLB’s Statcast data, he averaged 89 mph on 20 four-seam fastballs, the first time his average fastball sat below 90 for an entire game. His previous career low (90 mph) came on Opening Day of the 2012 season. Kershaw was battling a stomach flu that day and only lasted three innings against the San Diego Padres.
The Phillies scored their only run without touching home plate.
Kershaw walked Maikel Franco with one out in the second inning. The next batter, Nick Williams, singled to center field and Franco went to second base.
Kershaw struck out Scott Kingery for the second out, but Alfaro lined a single into center field. Cody Bellinger came up throwing and turned Franco’s arrival into a close play at the plate. Dodgers catcher Yasmani Grandal was ready and waiting, but Bellinger’s one-hop throw bounced off his glove.
Franco, meanwhile, darted around Grandal as the throw arrived. He never touched home plate. As Franco continued his jog back to the Phillies’ dugout, home plate umpire Will Little signaled safe. Grandal did not attempt to retrieve the baseball, which sat a couple feet away, and tag Franco.
According to MLB’s rules for challenging a call on the field, the Dodgers had two options. Roberts could have appealed to the crew chief (third base umpire Ted Barrett) and asked the umpires to confer among themselves. The umpires might have decided among themselves that Franco left the baseline without touching the plate, invalidating the run.
If the umpires did not agree with Roberts, he then could have initiated a challenge. Major League Baseball’s video replay team then could have reviewed Little’s call.
Roberts did not ask for an appeal, however, and the run stood.
The Dodgers got the run back in the fifth inning. Puig led off the inning with a double, the first hit against Nola (7-2). Puig went to third base on a groundout by Breyvic Valera and scored on an RBI single by Kiké Hernandez.
The Dodgers begin a three-game series against the Colorado Rockies in Denver on Friday, then finish the road trip next week in Pittsburgh.