Reigning NL Cy-Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw made his second career rehab start and struck out nine batters for the Chattanooga Lookouts (11-14) in a 4-3 loss against the Tennessee Smokies (13-13) in front of a sellout crowd of 6,318 at AT&T Field.
The southpaw struck out the side in the first inning, but ran his pitch count up to 29 with two Lookouts' errors which allowed a run to score. The Lookouts got that run back in the bottom of the inning on a double by Scott Schebler that plated Darnell Sweeney from second base.
After the long first inning Kershaw settled in, but the Smokies threatened to take the lead in the fourth. The Smokies managed to get runners on first and second and sacrificed them over to second and third. At that point, Kershaw locked in, striking out the last two batters of the inning as they watched strike three pass them by.
Lookouts' shortstop Erisbel Arruebarrena led off the bottom of the fourth inning by doubling down the left field line. Chris O’Brien then moved him over to third on a groundout to the second baseman. On the very next pitch, Noel Cuevas laid down a perfect bunt on a suicide squeeze play, scoring Arruebarrena easily, and running quickly down the line to reach first base before the throw did.
Kershaw’s pitch limit didn’t limit him from dominating the Smokies batters, as he wound up throwing 86 pitches in five innings, leaving the game to a standing ovation by the crowd. He received a no-decision in the game, allowing only one earned run on six hits, while having nine of his 15 outs come by strikeout.
After the game, Kershaw was frank about his outing.
“I think it went alright. I got my pitch count up there. With 87 [pitches], I would have liked to get through six or seven, but the goal was to get the pitch count up there," Kershaw said. “It’s always hard when pitch counts are in the back of your mind, but the goal is to get the pitch count up there so that I’ll be ready to throw 100+ pitches in the big leagues. At the same time, you’re trying to compete, too. It’s a little bit of a balance, but fortunately for me, I’m done with that and I can just go out there and pitch now.”
Even though the Lookouts took a 3-2 lead on a triple by Arruebarrena and a sacrifice fly by O’Brien, they ended up losing the game by a score of 4-3.
Notes: Scott Schebler continued his hot home stand, going 9-for-20 in the six games played so far. He also was able to get his sixth runner batted in during that span.
The teams meet again Thursday night at 7:15 p.m.