LOS ANGELES -- Against any other pitcher, Brandon Finnegan might have been able to enjoy the best start of his career.
The Reds southpaw threw his first big league complete game and only allowed one run, when Howie Kendrick hit into a double play with runners on the corners and no outs in the sixth inning. The Dodgers finished with no RBIs but still handed the Reds a 1-0 loss on Monday night, because Clayton Kershaw was on the mound and threw his third shutout this month.
While any pitcher would like to see his best rewarded, there were still several positives to take away from Finnegan's start, particularly his command of the outside half of the strike zone.
"It's an action fastball, two-seamers running off the plate to a right-handed-hitting lineup, which he usually sees," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "Ball one, ball two away, he doesn't really have the repertoire of a strike breaking ball and changeup that are as reliable as his fastball to get him back into counts. So getting the first strike or being able to hit that outside corner with that low-and-away fastball is really a big pitch for him."
Monday's effort didn't do too much to help Finnegan's strikeout-to-walk ratio, as he finished with two strikeouts against four walks. The 23-year-old instead induced ground balls and double plays to nullify most of the Dodgers' threats.
"Getting strikes is important, but at the same time, a lot of right-handed hitters don't like the ball away. A lot of like left-handers don't like it away either," Finnegan said. "They want to pull everything, just how hitters are. Working in and out, that's something every pitcher has to do."
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts commended Finnegan, saying he matched Kershaw pitch for pitch. While throwing in and out worked for Finnegan, Kershaw was instead just pounding the zone, throwing 71 strikes out of his 102 pitches.
It continued a month of May in which "the ace of the National League," as described by Price, has been on a rampage, with a 0.64 ERA in five starts, all wins. Kershaw's seven strikeouts and one walk was his second-worst K:BB ratio in a game in 2016. He has five walks on the season, compared to an MLB-high 95 strikeouts.
"He was locating all his pitches, and he comes after you. I really can't say much more," Pacheco said. "He comes after you. He throws strikes, and when he's locating all three of his pitches, I don't think he throws his changeup as much, but he was locating that slider and that fastball. Man, he's tough."
While running into Kershaw was unfortunate for Finnegan, it's a loss that carries a wealth of silver linings for a young pitcher and a rebuilding team. As the season develops, the team can only hope for more.
"We talk about how we're building our team, The first thing we've got to do is get the building blocks here," Price said. "Got to get guys off the DL and get these kids from Double-A to Triple-A and Triple-A to the big leagues. That'll be a good thing as that begins to take place later in the season."
Jack Baer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Reds on Monday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.