Sending Clayton Kershaw to the mound should improve the Los Angeles Dodgers’ chances at becoming the third team in a century years to win 42 of 50 games.
The ace, however, is still seeking his first victory over the Philadelphia Phillies.
Kershaw looks to continue his dazzling stretch by capitalizing on the free-falling Phillies in order to help the Dodgers join some elite company Wednesday night.
Los Angeles (71-50) has won 41 of 49 games, and a victory Saturday would put the team alongside the 1941 New York Yankees and the ’42 Cardinals as the only teams to enjoy a 42-8 stretch in 100 years.
Both of those teams went on to win the World Series.
“The plan is intact, just win every night,” manager Don Mattingly said. “I want to win every day.”
The pitching staff has a 2.50 ERA over the last 49 games, and Kershaw (11-7, 1.88 ERA) - baseball’s leader in ERA and WHIP (0.87) - has been a big part of that dominance.
The 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner is 6-2 with a 1.57 ERA in nine starts, but he’s 0-5 with a 4.92 ERA in 12 games - nine starts - against the Phillies, including the postseason.
He pitched well enough to win in the latest matchup July 18, 2012, yielding one run in eight innings of a 5-3 victory in 12.
Kershaw was backed by just one run in that meeting, and he’s 49-0 in 61 career starts when the offense supports him with at least four runs. The Dodgers have won 57 of those games.
That trend continued Sunday, when Kershaw yielded two runs and three hits with eight strikeouts in eight innings of an 8-2 win over Tampa Bay. He even got involved offensively, driving in two runs on a single and scoring two more.
“He’s been carrying us all year,” second baseman Mark Ellis told the team’s official website. “He’s incredible. He’s as complete a pitcher you could have. You feel good when he’s at the plate, too, it’s crazy. He’s like the perfect ballplayer.”
The Dodgers, whose only two losses in their last 20 games have come with Kershaw on the mound, are seeking their first 10-game winning streak since reeling off 11 in a row from July 28-Aug. 8, 2006.
They showed few signs of slowing down in Friday’s 4-0 victory to open this three-game set in Philadelphia (53-68), winning for the fifth straight visit.
While the Dodgers have surged to the top of the NL West, the Phillies have lost 20 of 24 and are practically out of postseason contention.
That led to manager Charlie Manuel’s dismissal Friday, and the club followed that up hours later by mustering three hits.
“It was a roller coaster of a day emotionally,” interim manager Ryne Sandberg said. “It affected me and I think it affects the players.”
Sandberg is expected to turn to Kyle Kendrick (10-9, 4.48), who has an 8.63 ERA while dropping three of his last five starts.
Frustration is growing for Kendrick, who was roughed up again in Sunday’s 6-0 loss at Washington. He surrendered six runs and 11 hits before being chased with one out in the fifth.
“I mean, it’s just been frustrating the last few starts for me,” Kendrick told the team’s official website. “It’s been frustrating and I just need to battle through it. That’s all you can do.”
Facing the Dodgers may not bode well for Kendrick since he’s 1-3 with an 8.10 ERA over his last four starts against them.