LA lamenting trend of wasting Kershaw gems

Bullpen blows second straight strong start by ace, as Dodgers' skid extends to five

LA lamenting trend of wasting Kershaw gems

HOUSTON -- For the second time in as many starts, the Dodgers squandered a Clayton Kershaw gem.

Just like in Oakland on Tuesday, it took extra innings, finished off this time by Jason Castro's solo homer off Chris Hatcher in the 10th inning for a 3-2 loss to the Astros.

Just like in Oakland, Kershaw allowed only one run and handed the ball off to his bullpen with a lead.

Castro's walk-off homer

"To give up another one of [Kershaw's] quality starts, in back-to-back series, it's tough," said Andre Ethier. "And then to have [them] sweep, too, just makes it hurt that much more."

The Dodgers have now lost at least two straight Kershaw outings three separate times this season.

Kershaw, by his own admission, wasn't even near his peak in terms of stuff on Sunday. The fastball command was pinpoint and the slider devastating, but the curveball bothered him.

"I only threw three or four good ones all day," he said.

You wouldn't have known it from the results, with eight innings of one-run ball against an Astros lineup capable of leaving the park at any time.

Even their lone run off Kershaw in the sixth inning was earned through some weak contact, as Jose Altuve fought one off into right field for a double and Carlos Gomez pulled one off his wrists just out of shortstop Jimmy Rollins' reach.

The RBI single by Carlos Correa was a tapper back to Kershaw that just crossed him up and hit off his legs.

Correa's RBI single

That's a funky series of plays, on an off-day for Kershaw, and yet he still exited the game right on track.

The Dodgers acknowledged after the game that losing consecutive games when Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitched was especially demoralizing.

"It's pretty obvious, the way we're lined up in our rotation," catcher A.J. Ellis said. "When you have two of the best pitchers in baseball, you need to take advantage of it. They gave us more than enough to win games here. [Clayton] left the game when it should be in hand."

It was still in hand as the Dodgers had a 2-1 lead until the bottom of the ninth, when Marwin Gonzalez ripped a two-out, two-strike, game-tying single off closer Kenley Jansen.

Gonzalez's game-tying RBI single

It was Jensen's first blown save since June 10.

Overall, the Dodgers have blown 18 saves this season, the third highest total in all of MLB.

"I trust Kenley," Kershaw said. "He's done it for me all year, so I trust him fully."

Added Ellis, "Kenley's not going to make excuses. Great thing about him is he'll have a short memory. If he's out there again come Tuesday night, we won't hesitate."

Eking out a win on even a mediocre day for Kershaw would have been a clear boost for a team that is now riding a five-game losing streak and has another road series to go before it returns home.

The Dodgers' lead in the National League West is minuscule compared to a week ago, and the offense has scored five runs in the last 39 innings. They lost three starts by Greinke or Kershaw in the span of six days.

If they can't get it done with Kershaw on the mound, is there any panic in the clubhouse?

"I hope we're panicking a little bit," Kershaw said. "To a certain extent, panicking's a good thing. It's August [23] and we've got five weeks left.

"There better be a sense of urgency -- maybe that's a better word than panic. We have to start playing like it."

Chris Abshire is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.