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Tuesday, August 27, 2013
This is what Clayton Kershaw struggling looks like

By Mark Saxon


LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw had one of those games in which everything looked difficult, and the Dodgers never quite recovered in a 3-2 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday night.

The 52,326 fans who showed up -- tipping the Los Angeles Dodgers over the three-million mark with 14 home games remaining -- still got some late-game excitement. An eighth-inning rally stalled and Yasiel Puig popped up, swinging at the first pitch, to end the game with the tying run at first.

Kershaw trudged through the first inning and never seemed entirely comfortable after that. The Cubs made him throw 29 pitches in the inning, and he needed to go to some of his nastiest breaking pitches early in the game to get strikeouts of Donnie Murphy and Junior Lake in order to keep it scoreless.

The Cubs didn’t break through to score off Kershaw until the third, on Dioner Navarro’s RBI single. Because one of the runners in the inning had gotten on via catcher’s interference, the run was unearned. In fact, despite one of his shakiest starts of the season, Kershaw’s ERA remained at 1.72, so Tuesday likely will have minimal impact on his Cy Young candidacy.

It might even help a little. Kershaw struck out nine Cubs batters and has 197 for the season. He’s about to become the third Dodgers pitcher to have 200 strikeouts in four consecutive seasons. The other two are named Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale.

And Tuesday could have been worse. Way worse. Cody Ransom lined a ball off Kershaw's right leg for a single in the sixth inning, but Kershaw initially tried waving off manager Don Mattingly and a trainer. When they kept coming any way, he stayed in the game after a couple of warm-up tosses.

The Dodgers haven't done Kershaw any favors offensively when he struggles, even just a little. In his eight losses, the team has scored a total of 12 runs.

The Dodgers made scant headway against Cubs left-hander Travis Wood, who is having a highly respectable season on a bad team. The Dodgers didn’t score until Juan Uribe’s two-out RBI single in the sixth inning.

Once they got Wood out of the game, the Dodgers looked like they would stage one of the late-inning comebacks that have been commonplace at Dodger Stadium the past two months. Andre Ethier drove in a run with a sharp single up the middle off Pedro Strop, but pinch hitter Skip Schumaker hit into an inning-ending double play.