'Exhausted' Kershaw captures 20th victory
Oh, what Edwin Jackson might give to endure a non-quality start like the one Clayton Kershaw had Friday.
It's all a matter of perspective.
Kershaw pitched "only" 5 innings at Wrigley Field but he got enough support to become the first 20-game winner in the major leagues as his Los Angeles Dodgers routed the Cubs 14-5 on a gorgeous afternoon in the waning days of summer.
The 26-year-old Kershaw, arguably the best pitcher in baseball, gave up 7 hits and 3 runs, throwing 106 pitches. He ran his record to 20-3 with a 1.80 ERA as he reached the 20-win mark for the second time in his career. All 3 of the Cubs' runs against Kershaw came in the bottom of the first, after the Dodgers had taken a 6-0 lead.
"I'm exhausted; it was a battle," Kershaw said. "It was just hard today. I don't know why. It's a good team. They put really good at-bats on me all day. I know it's a bunch of young guys, but I don't think I had an easy out the whole day. So it's just one of those things. I'm going to chalk it up to just a bad day and move on."
He also downplayed the 20-win milestone.
"I've always said that wins are a team stat, and 20 is obviously something, it's kind of a benchmark for a starting pitcher," he said. "Kind of a cool thing. But you saw today, obviously I wasn't great today and we scored 14 runs. Years happen like that, and I don't take it for granted. It's obviously awesome. Huge honor, but it's a team thing."
Now for Jackson.
His non-quality start was a little different. Coming off a monthlong stay on the disabled list after suffering from a lat strain, Jackson lasted two-thirds of an inning, throwing 35 pitches and getting charged with 5 of the 6 runs the Dodgers scored in the first inning.
A 3-run homer by Matt Kemp on a 1-2 pitch gave the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.
So while Kershaw is headed for perhaps a unanimous vote for the Cy Young Award, Jackson doesn't know if he'll pitch again this season, and his future with the Cubs has to be in doubt. He is 6-15 with a 6.38 ERA in his second season with the Cubs. Last year, he went 8-18 with a 4.98 ERA.
Remember that Jackson is reaching only the halfway point in his four-year, $52 million contract.
"It may seem far-fetched, and some people might not think so, but I still think my best years are to come," he said. "I really don't care what anyone else thinks. It's just a matter of going out and proving it. And I still believe that I will do that."
Whether it's with the Cubs or with someone else is open to question. Either way, it figures to be a long winter of reflection for Jackson.
"I'm a pretty composed person," he said. "I can definitely take the good with the bad. I can accept and man up to what I've done. I'm not trying to run or hide from anything I've done on the field. I take full responsibility for any questions or anything that's thrown at me.
"It's just a matter of finding yourself and just a matter of going out and having fun and pitching like you know you can pitch, staying loose and relaxed and control the game from the first pitch on."
Cubs manager Rick Renteria said it was "too soon" to say whether he will give Jackson another start this year, next weekend in Milwaukee.
About the only solace Renteria could take was that the Cubs got Kershaw out relatively early. Before Friday, he had made 17 consecutive starts and had pitched at least 7 innings in each.
"I thought we did a nice job of grinding out Kershaw, to be honest," Renteria said. "The plan was to try to get him to work a little bit. The guys did. They responded with 3 runs in the first inning right after their 6 runs in the first half of that inning. We just weren't able to get anything else going until real late."