PHOENIX, Ariz. -- After two perfect innings against the A's on Monday, Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw was roughed up for the second time in as many spring starts and again had no explanation.
Kershaw said he was fine physically after allowing all five batters he faced in the third inning to reach base, three on walks, all five scoring, before manager Don Mattingly yanked him. The A's scored seven runs in the inning en route to a 7-3 victory at Phoenix Municipal Stadium.
In his Cactus League debut on Wednesday, Kershaw allowed three runs on five hits in two innings. This time he was charged with five runs in two-plus innings, with three walks, two strikeouts and two hits.
Although he still is in pole position to start for the Dodgers in Australia after making 50 pitches, Kershaw wouldn't get the nod if self-confidence was a prerequisite.
"It's not fun to deal with," said Kershaw, who has an 18.00 ERA. "Physically, I feel great. I don't have any excuses. I don't know, searching for answers right now. I know it's Spring Training, it doesn't matter, but it matters to me."
Mattingly said he wasn't panicking.
"The first two innings were really good, then he got out of rhythm and couldn't find it," Mattingly said. "Good thing is, it's Spring Training, that's why we're here. He had the same kind of spring last year. He has a level of expectation of always being good. I don't have a problem with that. He expects to be in midseason form, and we keep working toward that. He gets frustrated. That's why we love him."
Last year, Kershaw was charged with four earned runs in five innings after two Spring Training starts.
"He just couldn't get the train back on the rails," said A.J. Ellis, who did not catch Kershaw last week. "They did a great job laying off borderline pitches, and he found himself in bad counts.
"Clayton's not one for thinking about a quality work day. He self-judges based on results. The first two innings he was not just good, but dominant. Not finishing the third inning, I know that's going to eat at him. We talked on the ride over. He's a pretty simple guy. He comes to pitch. He's not working on things, he does that in bullpen sessions. In a game situation, for him it's time to compete. Today he had a little hiccup."
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.