By HAL McCOY
They could have turned out the Dodger Stadium lights and emptied the Chavez Ravine parking lots after the sixth inning Monday night in Los Angeles.
The Los Angeles Dodgers scored a run in the sixth inning, the game’s only run, and that is all Clayton Kershaw needed as he pitched his third complete-game shutout of the season, 1-0, holding the Reds to two hits.
It was an unfortunate night for Reds starter Brandon Finnegan to pitch his best game of the season. He pitched a complete game, the Reds’ first, and held the Dodgers to five hits. And his teammates helped him by turning four double plays, although they also made three errors, two by catcher Tucker Barnhart and one by second baseman Brandon Phillips.
IT SEEMS ALMOST insane to say it, but Kershaw was not at his best, even while throwing a two-hit shutout — at least in the early innings. Then he retired the last 17 Reds in a row and completed his work day in two hours and 11 minutes.
But the Reds muffed early chances to score and if you don’t cash in on opportunities against Kershaw, a three-time Cy Young winner and a National League MVP, things turn ugly.
Zack Cozart picked on the first pitch of the game and slashed a double to left field. Billy Hamilton bunted him to third, but Joey Votto lined to shortstop and Brandon Phillips (2 for 25) grounded out — one of 15 ground ball outs thrown by Kershaw.
TUCKER BARNHART SINGLED to open the third, but Finnegan forced Barnhart at second on a bunt attempt, then both Cozart and Hamilton grounded out to third base.
And that was it. The party was over.
The Dodgers scored the game’s only run in the sixth and it began when Finnegan walked Justin Turner to start the inning. Catcher Barnhat had Turner picked off first base, but his throw short-hopped first baseman Joey Votto and Turner scooted to second. Adrian Gonzalez tried to check his swing and blooped one barely over third baseman Jordan Pacheco’s glove for a single that sent Turner to third.
Kyle Kendrick bounced into a double play, but Turner scored.
KERSHAW TOOK IT from there, despite striking out only seven. Only? Well in his previous six starts he had struck out 10 or more and walked one or fewer — a major league record.
And when he walked Votto to open the fourth, it was only his fifth walk of the entire season (he has struck out 95). In addition, he had gone to a three-ball count to only 29 hitters all year but went to three-ball counts on Votto three times, but walked him just that once.
After the Votto walk, Phillips hit into a 6-4-3 double play.
So, Kershaw, a long, tall left handed Texan is 7-and-1 with a 1.48 earned run average and the Reds pushed their losing streak to eight straight and they’ve lost 13 of their last 15. It was the fourth time the Reds have been shut out this season.
KERSHAW USED 101 pitches for his complete game and he pitches in a definite pattern — fastballs early in the count, sliders in the middle of the count and a big, bending slow curve with two strikes.
“I’ve seen enough of Clayton Kershaw over the last seven or eight years,” manager Bryan Price told Fox Sports Ohio after the game. “But I’m really proud of Brandon Finnegan. He was sensational.”
Hitters know the pattern but Kershaw executes them so magnificently that it doesn’t matter. He could tell hitters what is coming and he still would be difficult to hit.
Rookie Daniel Murphy makes his major league debut Tuesday night in the Dodger Stadium cauldron after pitching only two games this year at Triple-A Louisville. He started at Class AA Pensacola and was recently promoted. In his last start he pitched a complete-game shutout and was named International League Pitcher of the Week.