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Saturday, April 6, 2013
Kershaw and Co. go it alone

By Mark Saxon

LOS ANGELES -- You've got to give Luis Cruz a little credit for keeping his sense of humor through a grueling start to his season.

"Right now, I think I have the same ERA as Kershaw -- 0.00," Cruz said.

Clayton Kershaw
Clayton Kershaw has started the season with 16 consecutive scoreless innings, but the Dodgers' offense hasn't helped him much.
Cruz is in the worst slump among Los Angeles Dodgers hitters, zero for his first 17 at-bats, but he's far from alone in the department of struggles.

After Saturday's 1-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Dodgers are collectively batting .190 with two home runs in the season's first week. Matt Kemp is hitting .056 with six strikeouts; Justin Sellers is also still looking for his first hit.

In fact, another name for the Dodgers' offense most nights is "Carl Crawford."

That, of course, is the bad news for a team that entered 2013 with a heap of expectations and the richest collection of players in baseball history. Lucky for the Dodgers, there is a flip side to their angst. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and the bullpen have been virtually unhittable, sending the Dodgers off to a 3-2 start despite virtually no support.

"Obviously, we're not swinging the bats that great yet, but it's good to be getting wins as we get down this road, to be able to do it in different ways," manager Don Mattingly said.

Actually, it seems as if they're kind of doing it in the same way, eking out narrow victories behind dominant pitching.

Kershaw (2-0) is tied for the team lead in home runs with Andre Ethier. Each of them has one. He dominated again Saturday, holding the Pirates to two hits and a walk despite having what, for him, was a mediocre fastball.

"I was reaching back and didn't have a whole lot in the tank," Kershaw said.

So far, Kershaw has pitched 15 of his 16 innings with either a 0-0 tie or a 1-0 lead. He has given not an inch and, he said, it hasn't really bothered him to be standing on the tightrope all alone. Maybe that's as good a measure as any of how confident and purposeful he is right now.

"It doesn't affect anything for me. I'm trying to not let them score any runs regardless of whether we're winning 1-0 or 10-0," Kershaw said.

Mattingly says he's not overly concerned about the slumps of Kemp or Sellers because Kemp has a longer track record and Sellers has the kind of personality to let it slide off his shoulders. He does, however, admit to having some concerns about Cruz's confidence. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cruz get a day off in the coming days. Cruz says he feels "jumpy" at the plate.

"These are tough games for me, but if I don't get any hits, I've got to play my butt off on defense and not let anybody get any hits," Cruz said.

That's kind of how Dodgers pitchers feel these days.