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Kershaw isn't rocky this time

Rookie left-hander goes a strong six innings at Coors Field as the Dodgers increase their lead to 4 1/2 games with a 5-1 victory.

September 14, 2008|Dylan Hernandez | Times Staff Writer

DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw had to be selective when recalling details of the last time he pitched at Coors Field.

Being overly reflective could elicit fear. Not being reflective enough could lead to the repeating of mistakes.

Kershaw said he found the right mental balance in the days leading up to his start Saturday night and the results backed his claim, as the 20-year-old left-hander held the Colorado Rockies to one run and four hits and struck out seven over six innings to earn the victory in the Dodgers' 12th win in 13 games, a 5-1 win that extended their NL West lead over Arizona to 4 1/2 games. Their magic number is 11.

The last time Kershaw was here was on the day he received his second call-up from double-A Jacksonville and he was pounded for five runs and 10 hits over three innings on July 22.

"It's not really the stadium, it's me," Kershaw said. "This is a pretty aggressive, fastball-hitting team. That's what got me in trouble here last time."

So Kershaw (4-5) hooked one curveball into the strike zone after another.

The nightmare at Coors Field wasn't the only game Kershaw had to put behind him. He pitched only four innings in his last start, as Arizona forced him out of the game early by tagging him for three runs and getting his pitch count up to 92.

"You've got to forget about the outcome, but at the same time you want to get better at what you did wrong," Kershaw said. "It's a balance that I'm trying to figure out still."

Manager Joe Torre praised Kershaw's approach from the time he first saw him pitch in a spring training game, but he admitted Saturday that the kid is even more poised than he initially thought.

"We've asked him to do a lot," Torre said. "Sometimes he's had trouble slowing the game down, but he's never lost his composure."

The main concern regarding Kershaw at this point is the number of innings he has logged. With two starts left in the regular season, Kershaw has pitched 157 1/3 innings between the majors and minors. Management started the year with designs of limiting him to 170 innings.

Pitching coach Rick Honeycutt laughed when he was jokingly asked if he considered shutting down Kershaw for the year.

"It hasn't entered my mind yet," he said.

Greg Maddux, who has spent time talking about pitching with Kershaw since being acquired last month, said he liked the way the youngster has carried himself on and off the mound.

"His stuff is outstanding," Maddux said. "If he controls his fastball, he does what he did tonight. He controls the game as well as anybody."

Especially when he's ahead.

The Dodgers took a 1-0 lead in the second on a solo home run by Casey Blake. They responded to a run scored by the Rockies in the bottom of the third with three runs in the top of the fourth, the last coming on a sacrifice fly by Juan Pierre that scored Angel Berroa.

Pierre received a rare start, taking the spot of Andre Ethier, who returned home to Arizona to be with his wife for the birth of their first child. Pierre was 0 for 3.

Berroa was two for three with two doubles and a run batted in.

Though Takashi Saito was activated from the 60-day disabled list, he wasn't able to pitch in the game, as Torre elected to treat the Dodgers' four-run lead as a save situation because of where they were playing. Torre had told Saito that he would pitch in the ninth inning if the Dodgers increased their lead to six.

The ball was handed instead to interim closer Jonathan Broxton, who struck out two in a 1-2-3 ninth.

--

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

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