Jair Jurrjens would still be in the minors right now if it wasn’t for Brandon Beachy’s Tommy John surgery, but he made the most out of his opportunity last night.
Jurrjens shined in his return to the majors by limiting the Red Sox to one run over 7 2/3 innings as part of a 4-1 victory. He walked one and struck out four and carried a one-hit shutout through the first seven innings. The only run scored on a double by Daniel Nava in the bottom of the eighth inning which chased him from the game.
Jurrjens made the National League All-Star team last year, but he was limited to just seven starts during the second half due to continued issues with his right knee. His struggles continued in the early part of this season, as he was demoted to the minors in late April after being hammered to the tune of a 9.37 ERA over his first four starts. His results weren’t much better during his time with Triple-A Gwinnett, as he had a 5.10 ERA over 10 starts.
While Jurrjens appears healthy at the moment, his velocity has been missing in action for quite some time now. Even though he was effective last night, he averaged just 89 mph on his fastball and relied heavily on his changeup. He averaged between 91-92 mph on his heater from 2007-2010. Last night was obviously an encouraging step in the right direction and a few more outings like it could lessen the sense of urgency for a trade, but he still has a lot to prove.
For years, a bulk of the postseason coverage surrounding Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw focused on his poor results once the regular season ended. The three-time Cy Young Award winner carried a career 5.68 postseason ERA following his NLDS Game 1 start against the Diamondbacks last year, a sample size spanning 15 starts and four relief appearances totaling 95 1/3 innings.
Kershaw had a subpar start against the Astros in Game 5 of the World Series last year and the narrative hit a fever pitch. I dug into the numbers at that point and found that a not-insignificant portion of Kershaw’s playoff ERA could be attributed to relievers coming in after him and failing to strand their inherited runners. At the time of that writing (October 30, 2017), Dodger relievers allowed 10 of 16 runners inherited from Kershaw in the playoffs to score, a strand rate of 37.5 percent. That’s roughly half of the league average (around 75 percent).
Kershaw finished out the World Series last year by pitching four scoreless innings of relief in Game 7. He returned to the postseason, starting Game 2 of the NLDS against the Braves this year and tossed eight shutout frames on just two hits with no walks. The narrative should have died there, too. It, of course did not. As the Dodgers advanced to the NLCS, Kershaw got the Game 1 nod against the Brewers and struggled. The Brewers got him for five runs (four earned) across three-plus innings. One of those runs included a home run hit by the opposing pitcher (Brandon Woodruff). Kershaw was also hurt by a passed ball and catcher’s interference on the part of Yasmani Grandal in the third inning. Not a great outing, but not as bad as the line score read, either.
In Game 5 of the NLCS on Wednesday evening, Kershaw once again redeemed himself. He limited the Brewers this time around to a lone run on three hits and two walks with nine strikeouts over seven innings of work. The only run came around in the third inning when Lorenzo Cain hit an RBI double to center field. Kershaw’s career postseason ERA is now 4.11 and it would be much lower if his bullpen had, in the past, done its job more effectively.
According to Katie Sharp of The Athletic, tonight’s postseason start was Kershaw’s eighth in which he allowed one run or fewer and three hits or fewer. No other pitcher in baseball history has made more than five such starts. That’s partially a function of opportunity, as the Dodgers have been in the postseason every year dating back to 2013 as well as in 2008 and ’09. But Kershaw still has to go out there and make the pitches, and he largely has. The “Kershaw can’t pitch in the postseason” narrative is dead. It never should have lived.