For only the second time since May 1, Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw took the mound in the big league game Saturday night. The club opted to activate Kershaw off the disabled list rather than have him throw a minor league rehab game.

And in the first inning against the New York Mets (GameTracker), Kershaw looked like Kershaw, meaning dominant. He struck out two in a 12-pitch 1-2-3 first inning. Things went awry after that. Kershaw allowed a run on back-to-back doubles in the second inning and another run on three singles in the third inning. That was the end of his evening.

Clayton Kershaw
LAD • SP • 22
June 23 vs. Mets
IP3
H5
R2
ER2
BB1
K4
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Kershaw threw 55 pitches in the three-inning outing and that was the plan going into the start. He did not make a single minor league rehab start and will need time to get stretched all the way back out to 100 or so pitches. The Dodgers figure whatever Kershaw can give them on a limited pitch counts is better than wasting those bullets in rehab starts.

Not surprisingly, Kershaw's velocity dipped as his outing progressed Saturday. Here's his average fastball velocity inning-by-inning:

  • 1st inning: 91.2 mph (92.4 mph max)
  • 2nd inning: 90.4 mph (91.8 mph max)
  • 3rd inning: 90.1 mph (91.2 mph max)

In the seven starts prior to the biceps injury that sent Kershaw to the disabled list in early May, his fastball averaged 91.9 mph and topped out at 93.7 mph. He was a notch below that Saturday night but again, he didn't make a rehab start. Kershaw is still rebuilding arm strength.

It is worth nothing that, when he pitched on May 31, Kershaw's fastball averaged 89.1 mph and topped out at 90.8 mph. He exited that start with back trouble and wound up on the disabled list again. It was his third back related disabled list stint in the last three years. That Kershaw showed something close to his normal velocity Saturday is encouraging.

More than anything, Kershaw just looked rusty Saturday night. His stuff wasn't as crisp as usual and his location wasn't great, particularly with his slider and curveball. Frankly, he looked like a pitcher on a rehab start after missing the better part of two months. I guess that was the to be expected.

The Mets, with all due respect, are not a very dangerous offensive team. Kershaw will face a much bigger test when he gets the ball against the Chicago Cubs in five days.