Red-hot Dodgers minimizing Kershaw's struggles

L.A. wins 20th despite scuffling ace

Red-hot Dodgers minimizing Kershaw's struggles

DENVER -- Even with Clayton Kershaw not pitching like an MVP, the Dodgers continue to win.

They won on Mother's Day, 9-5, even though Kershaw couldn't protect a two-run lead for the second consecutive start. They continue to win because Adrian Gonzalez is an RBI machine, Justin Turner slugs tie-breaking pinch-hit homers and the bullpen's stealth youth movement has neutralized opponents in the late innings.

"[President of baseball operations] Andrew [Friedman] and the front office created roster depth so if something happens to one guy, the next guy comes in and we don't miss a beat," said Turner, who's given the Dodgers four pinch-homers this year, already three more than all last year.

They extended Colorado's losing streak to nine games and wrapped up a 4-2 trip in a game played in low-40s temperatures after the Coors Field grounds crew cleared four inches of snow that fell overnight.

Kershaw wouldn't blame the conditions for another disappointing start by his standards.

"Fortunately, we got the win when I didn't pitch that great," he said. "I felt OK, but I'm not getting the results again. Definitely not up to par for what I expect and what the team expects."

Kershaw has one win and a 4.26 ERA in seven starts. With 110 pitches, he was charged with five runs (all in the fourth inning) in 5 2/3 innings and turned over a bases-loaded mess to Pedro Baez, who struck out Troy Tulowitzki in the biggest at-bat for the Dodgers until Turner's two-run shot in the eighth.

Baez escapes a jam

Gonzalez drove in four on Sunday and already has 29 RBIs. They drew 10 walks. Baez was followed to the mound by fellow rookie relievers Adam Liberatore and Yimi Garcia, who retired the last six hitters.

"It's impressive, the at-bats these guys are having," said Kershaw, who walked four. "Clutch hits. The bench guys. A pretty complete team. I start doing my part and we'll be pretty good."

The Dodgers already are a season-high 10 games above .500 with a 4 1/2 game lead in the National League West. If there's a difference in Kershaw from last year, it's the slider, especially when a putaway is needed with runners in scoring position. The bite or finish on the pitch comes and goes.

"We expect so much," said pitching coach Rick Honeycutt. "And that's his expectation. He's already proven he can do it, to make the pitch when he needs it."

Manager Don Mattingly said Kershaw appeared to be "fighting it" Sunday, that some years it just doesn't go your way. He went on to say that a Cy Young and MVP winner is a target for opponents, but predicted it will turn in Kershaw's favor.

"I'd like to hope so," Kershaw said. "I can't really bank on that, 'Oh, it's coming.' I just have to wait until my next start, and that's against these guys [Friday]."

Kershaw said he wouldn't accept the excuse that most of Colorado's eight hits off him were soft or lucky.

"I don't really believe in luck," he said. "Either you pitch good or you don't. It evens out. It's baseball."

Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.