Slow start plagues Kershaw yet again

Slow start plagues Kershaw yet again

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers are trying to pull off a five-man rotation with only three starting pitchers. Do the math, or just check the standings.

They fell deeper into the cellar when the youngest of the three, 22-year-old Clayton Kershaw, delivered the shortest start of his budding career on Tuesday night. Kershaw allowed seven runs in a nine-run second inning as the Brewers coasted to an 11-6 victory that snapped the Dodgers' win streak at three.

Despite James Loney's homer and four RBIs, the Dodgers dropped 5 1/2 games behind San Diego. It was the eighth time this year that L.A. scored at least five runs and lost. That happened only 11 times all last season.

Kershaw (1-2) was removed after 1 1/3 innings, meaning each of the three relievers that followed him -- Ramon Ortiz (1 2/3 innings), Charlie Haeger (four innings) and Carlos Monasterios (two innings) -- recorded more outs. Kershaw walked the leadoff batter in both innings he pitched, hit two batters, allowed a three-run broken-bat double to Ryan Braun, followed by Prince Fielder's home run, followed by manager Joe Torre's hook.

Kershaw made 57 pitches, 35 in the second inning when he retired one of eight batters, and his ERA ballooned from 3.07 to 4.99. He was coming off three consecutive quality starts, but there were scattered boos when he left the game. He now has 24 walks in 30 2/3 innings.

"We noticed he had 22 walks in 29 innings, and we talked about making him put the ball in the strike zone," said Milwaukee manager Ken Macha, whose Brewers had just scored only two runs in a four-game series in San Diego.

And the Brewers weren't done in the second until Gregg Zaun slugged a two-run homer off Ortiz, capping a nine-run inning, the most runs scored in an inning against the Dodgers since Tampa Bay scored nine in 2002, and it was the biggest inning by an opponent since St. Louis plated 11 in 1999.

"He just couldn't throw the ball where he wanted to," Torre said. "We all have to keep in mind how young he is and his limited experience and understand this is going to happen every once in a while."

Torre said he wasn't concerned about Kershaw's ability to rebound in time for his next start on Sunday. He seemed more concerned with the expectations on the 22-year-old because of his raw talent.

"This is why it's unfair to ask him to lead a pitching staff, even though he's not afraid to take the responsibility," said Torre. "He's still growing into the responsibility right now and sometimes he gets to where he overthrows and loses his rhythm. He hit a couple guys with a fastball in, threw a changeup over the catcher's head, stuff like that."

While Torre summed up Kershaw's trouble as a lack of command, Kershaw said he couldn't pinpoint one reason for his outing.

"It was pretty much everything," he said. "A lot of people tell me that growing up, your character handles adversity. I'll try to bounce back and have a good one Sunday."

After 3 1/2 innings, the Dodgers trailed 10-0. The last time they rallied from that deficit, William McKinley was president. They gave it a go, scoring twice in the fifth against Chris Narveson, another in the sixth and Loney's three-run shot in the eighth. Loney is 9-for-18 with 10 RBIs in the first five games of this homestand.

"James got it interesting," said Torre. "Within five is certainly reachable. But too little, too late. We dug ourselves too deep a hole."

Meanwhile, Haeger kept the game close after allowing the first batter he faced to score, going four innings in his first appearance after being dropped out of the rotation as the fifth starter. He also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.

"That was big for him," Torre said of the four innings, not the sac fly. "Tonight, he was so much better in that he was throwing his knuckleball around the zone. He looked a lot more comfortable. Haeger can do a lot of things. He can start, but you can also go to him [in relief] without worrying about hurting him. He certainly has value. Tonight, he didn't hurt himself."

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