SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Clayton Kershaw lost for the first time since May, allowing the go-ahead run when Max Muncy misplayed a potential inning-ending double-play grounder in a 2-1 defeat to the San Francisco Giants on Saturday night that left the Los Angeles Dodgers one win shy of 100 going into their season finale.
Kershaw (13-5), a 35-year-old three-time Cy Young Award winner, had been 7-0 with a 1.96 ERA in 13 starts since a May 21 loss at St. Louis. Facing the Giants for the 59th time, he allowed a third-inning homer to Tyler Fitzgerald and gave up two runs and five hits in 5 1/3 innings.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts hinted that Kershaw is in line to start the NL Division Series opener on Oct. 7.
“Whenever it is, I’m just excited to get to do it," Kershaw said. "It’ll be fun. With the way this year kind of went, I didn’t really expect to be in this spot for a lot of reasons. But it’s here and if that happens, I’ll be ready.”
Kershaw, who has been pitching on extended rest and had been limited to five or fewer innings in his previous seven outings, said he feels rejuvenated by the extra rest and is ready for the playoffs. Despite taking the loss, Kershaw think his pitches are gaining consistency.
With the score 1-1, Austin Slater walked leading off the sixth and advanced on a wild pitch. Luis Matos walked and Slater took third when Thairo Estrada grounded into a forceout.
With runners at the corners, Wilmer Flores hit a hard grounder to third only for Muncy to bobble the ball twice and not get off a throw. Muncy was charged with an error and Flores was credited with an RBI.
Roberts let Kershaw start the sixth to get his mindset into pitching deeper into games. Robetrs said he “couldn’t have expected or wanted anything more.”
“I thought he was throwing the baseball really well, and you just never know what you’re going to get in the postseason,” Roberts said. “Given where he was at, how he was throwing the baseball, I just thought it was the right decision.”
NL West champion Los Angeles is attempting to reach 100 wins for the third straight year following the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Tristan Beck, a rookie making his third big league start, allowed Mookie Betts' RBI single in the sixth. Betts' 107 RBIs from the leadoff spot are the most since RBIs became an official statistic in 1920, one more than Ronald Acuña Jr.'s total for Atlanta this season.
Ryan Walker (5-3) allowed one hit over two innings and Camilo Doval got his 39th save in 47 chances. Chris Taylor singled with two outs and was caught stealing second by catcher Patrick Bailey.
A day after firing manager Gabe Kapler, San Francisco (79-82) started six rookies under interim manager Kai Correa: Fitzgerald, Bailey, Luis Matos, Marco Luciano, Casey Schmitt and Heliot Ramos.
“This exposure that these guys got is a perfect table setting for them to move forward,” Correa said.
Correa, who got his first managerial win, said the circumstances were suboptimal but the victory still meant a lot. He received a celebratory laundry cart ride from his players in the clubhouse and said it “meant the world” to see the excitement in the postgame handshake line.
“Winning can be a nice escape from everything else that’s going on, a reminder that that’s the reason we’re here in the first place,” Correa said.
Brandon Crawford is set return Sunday after going on the 10-day injured list on Sept. 21 with a strained right hamstring. It could be the shortstop's final game with the Giants after 13 seasons. The 36-year-old is eligible to become a free agent after the World Series.
“I’m hopeful we can manufacture some moments where he gets his flowers - and appropriately so,” Correa said.
Dodgers: SS Miguel Rojas is day to day but improving after getting hit by a pitch on Friday, and is expected to play in the regular season finale.
A pair of rookie pitchers start Sunday: RHP Bobby Miller (11-4, 3.89 ERA) for the Dodgers and LHP Kyle Harrison (1-1, 4.85 ERA) for the Giants. Miller allowed a career-high seven runs in his last start against the Giants. San Francisco will start a rookie pitcher for the third straight game.
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