Los Angeles Dodgers Clayton Kershaw’s game improved dramatically over his first three seasons

One team does stand to lose more than any other, and that’s the Dodgers. And just as the hot starters often excelled, the cold ones often flopped. With Kershaw and Rich Hill both on cold streaks, two of L.A.’s best starters might struggle this October.10 Kershaw’s struggles are nothing new, but the persistent loss of velocity he seems to have experienced each of the last three years suggests that he’s not a choker — he’s probably just tired.

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Clayton Kershaw, 29, has been selected to the NL All-Star team in each of the past seven seasons and finished no lower than fifth in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award over that span.

Nobody expected Clayton Kershaw to get shelled in the 2016 postseason, but sure enough, his fastball velocity had dropped enough to trigger a cold streak just before October. The same goes for other aces who underperformed in the postseason, like James Shields in 2014.

“With position players you have a lot more leeway; they don’t need six weeks of Spring Training. Relievers are the same way; they don’t need six weeks to get ready,” said Kershaw. “Really, everybody’s here for us, honestly. The starting pitchers need to go an inning at a time for four or five times and that takes three or four weeks. There’s not much you can do.

“The guys that last a long time are consistent in their mechanics,” said Wood, who figures to slot in third in the Dodgers’ rotation behind Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. “Having a solid base of one thing that you’re doing on a consistent basis every single day makes it so that the adjustment you have to mlb jerseys cheap make if you get in a little funk midseason will potentially be smaller.”

Roberts said Kershaw, like many of his teammates, will have a gentle start to Spring Training as management wants to reduce workload because of the long postseason and short offseason.

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The notion of two more performances like this one ought to frighten the Astros more than tonight’s loss. Going down a game on the road does not doom Houston. And while the other Dodgers starters are formidable, no one on the roster compares to Kershaw. But if Kid K is hot and healthy enough to repeat this brilliance twice more, the Astros’ margin of error might have just shrunk drastically.

Dodgers #22 Clayton Kershaw White Sawyer Hooded Sweatshirt MLB Hoodie
Dodgers #22 Clayton Kershaw White Sawyer Hooded Sweatshirt MLB Hoodie

He wasn’t ready. The Astros and Rockies combined to score 15 runs in Kershaw’s next two starts, knocking him out in the fifth inning both times. Though the results improved after that, Kershaw’s two-pitch repertoire (with very occasional changeups mixed in) was starting to waver. Hitters began laying off his curve altogether, figuring they had little chance of making good contact if they swung. Kershaw’s fastball was the single most valuable fastball thrown by any pitcher in the majors that year, which allowed him to compete nearly every time out. Still, Dodgers management and Joe Torre worried that Kershaw’s success might not last if he were forced to become more or less a one-pitch pitcher. There was even talk of a brief demotion to the minors to work on other pitches.

Roberts probably made the right call, though — at least in terms of maximizing his team’s odds of victory. The Dodgers possess an outstanding bullpen that would likely outperform Kershaw’s third trip through the order. No matter how lethal the tall Texan looked in the first seven innings, he was bound to be worse as fatigue and familiarity caught up to him. And the short leash Roberts tugged on means that Kershaw will be fresh and well-rested if he needs to make another start or two in the series.