Vincent Bonsignore: Clayton Kershaw a shadow of his former self

first_img“I didn’t pitch good,” he said. “I don’t know how to answer it. I just didn’t pitch good.”He needed 48 pitches to get through a four-run third inning, got through the fourth unscathed but then gave up three straight hits to start the fifth.His night was over at that point.And the Dodgers were done too.It was a Kershaw we didn’t recognize.Dazed, defeated and crushed.“It’s hard,” Kershaw said. “I wanted to win it for these guys.”His teammates, shaken by the sight of their conquered ace, operated the remainder of the night in a stunned haze.“Shell-shocked is a good way to describe it,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said.The Cardinals, sensing the vulnerability, ripped through them on their way to a 9-0 win that sends them to their fourth World Series in nine seasons.The Dodgers, meanwhile, sulk home after falling well short of their objective.And while that might be an annoyance, it’s hardly a surprise given the various issues they’ve been dealing with.No Matt Kemp meant no Gold Glove defense in center field and one less big bat in the middle of the batting order.A gimpy Andre Ethier robbed the Dodgers of outfield depth and a volatile bat off the bench.The fractured rib of Hanley Ramirez crippled their season-long Most Valuable Player.Given all that, the task of beating the proud, playoff-hardened Cardinals was a tall one indeed.That they fell short was no shock at all.That it was Kershaw letting them down is, though. He is uniquely wired for games like this, as fierce a competitor as you will find and as prepared to assume responsibility as anyone in the game.But where there was willingness, effectiveness never followed.And while there was want, efficiency vanished into the cold Midwest air.He insisted afterward he felt fine. No, there were no lingering effects from his recent work on three days’ rest.No, he was not the victim of questionable calls by the home plate umpire, specifically the non-called third strike on Matt Carpenter that would have been the second out of the third inning.Instead, Carpenter hit a double to get the four-run rally started.“It wouldn’t have mattered if I got him out,” Kershaw said, jaw clenched.Nope, this was on Kershaw and Kershaw only.“Thanks for trying to find excuses guys, but I just didn’t pitch well,” he said.All the more staggering, then, that Cardinals rookie Michael Wacha didn’t just oblige the task of dueling Kershaw, he badly outpitched and outperformed him while completing seven scoreless innings.In two games against the Dodgers, Wacha pitched 13 2/3 innings without letting in a run, and rarely dealt with drama.Tighten your eyes and let those numbers anonymously mull in your head a bit and your mind produces a single name: Clayton Kershaw.Open them up to learn it was Wacha, not Kershaw, and that Kershaw lost both games he pitched in the NLCS and couldn’t escape the fifth in the second, and you have the sort of astonishment felt by the Dodgers on Friday.They had their horse going in Game 6, and they fully intended to ride him to a seventh game.“We felt really great getting on that plane knowing what we had lined up,” Ellis said.But Kershaw inexplicably fell lame.And when he did the astonished Dodgers had nowhere left to turn, the remaining four innings a torturous ordeal of inevitability.The destination cemented, the journey still not complete, they simply gutted out the final hours.Their ace was prepared to steer them clear of all this.But a Clayton Kershaw we didn’t recognized materialized Friday in St. Louis. ST. LOUIS >> Head down, glove off and eyes piercing a hole into the grass at Busch Stadium, Clayton Kershaw made the slow walk to the Dodgers dugout Friday.It was a look and vibe we’ve rarely seen from Kershaw.It was the look of a beaten man.Behind him, an unforgiving scoreboard hung ominously over his shoulder telling a dreadful tale. Given the chance to pitch the biggest game of his life and carry the Dodgers to Game 7 in the National League Championship series, Kershaw couldn’t even make it out of the fifth inning.With the Dodgers season on the line and their ace prepared to commander them to safety, he ushered them into the side of a mountain.The best pitcher in baseball failed, miserably.“I wasn’t good enough,” he whispered afterward.Given the opportunity to etch his name into Dodgers postseason lore, the Cardinals pummeled him with vicious body blows. Ten hits in all, seven earned runs, the unmistakable sound of wood bats angrily hitting balls echoing through the stadium like fireworks on the Fourth of July.center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img