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Rockies ground Clayton Kershaw with a rare air attack

DENVER -- Clayton Kershaw shrugged his shoulders, flashed a sideways smile and found something of a positive out of the first set of back-to-back home runs he had ever given up in his 10-year major league career.

"That was cool ... for a little bit," Kershaw said in the clubhouse afterward, referring to an astounding decadelong run of never making consecutive mistakes to the best hitters in the business.

In no way was he OK with losing or fine with not keeping the Colorado Rockies in check on a night when he felt like he had pretty good stuff. But he seemed assured after the Los Angeles Dodgers lost 4-2 to the Rockies because he knew what went wrong and also how to fix it.

One of the game's best arms was not clobbered for a lot of runs, just some long and loud ones. And the shots from Nolan Arenado, Mark Reynolds and Gerardo Parra resonated long after the game ended. The first set of back-to-backs in Kershaw's career -- delivered by Reynolds and Parra in the sixth inning -- was only one notable aspect of the Rockies' power display.

The sixth inning, when Reynolds and Parra went deep, was just the third time in Kershaw's career that he had given up multiple home runs in the same inning. It also happened in the first inning of a 2008 game against the Washington Nationals and the third inning of a 2009 game against the Rockies.

Kershaw gave up three home runs in an outing for just the third time in his career. The last time it happened was in April 2013 against the San Diego Padres.

The last major league pitcher to throw at least 1,700 innings before giving up back-to-back home runs for the first time was Greg Maddux, who did it at the 2,804-inning mark of his career against the Dodgers in 1998. Gary Sheffield and Eric Karros had the honors. Kershaw was at 1,772⅓ innings when it happened Saturday.

"He's the best in baseball for a reason," teammate Adrian Gonzalez said of Kershaw. "They just got a couple of balls in the air, and they went out."

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw was feeling good on Saturday and confident in his stuff, but the Arenado home run came on a curveball that was up, while Reynolds attacked a 91 mph slider, and Parra went out to center field on a fastball. "Center cut," Roberts said of the fastball.

"I think that [slider] was probably the best pitch of the three that I had tonight," Kershaw said. "The fastball command, there were some instances where I got into deep counts. They did a good job. My pitch count got a little higher than I would like it to. But you give them credit. They battled. That's a good team. You can't make mistakes, and I just made too many tonight."

The simple excuse that could have been made was that of course something like this would happen in Colorado. It's the park where fly balls just keep on floating. Hey, the ballpark has a purple ring in the upper deck that officially marks one mile above sea level: of course the air is going to be light.

Except that Kershaw went the other way. He didn't bash the ballpark. He praised it.

"People tell you over and over how different it is and how the ball flies and all that stuff," Kershaw said. "I just think you have to be better than that. You can't think about that. You just go pitch. Tonight, I don't think that was a factor. The balls that were going to go out were going to go out [anywhere]. I like this place, actually. I like the park. It's fun to come here. It's always a challenge, more so because of the team than the place."

Kershaw doesn't make excuses and wasn't about to start doing it on Saturday.

"He's more than dependable," Roberts said. "So yeah, you know what, he's human and he was pretty amped up tonight. You could see the velocity touched 95 [mph]. He was throwing some sliders 91. So he was amped up and feeling good, so that's a good thing. But it's going to happen that he will make mistakes, and those guys took advantage of it."

And forget about any injury concerns. Kershaw stopped answering health questions in general, and back questions in particular, right after he did an interview on the day pitchers and catchers reported to spring training. He missed 75 days with a back injury last season, returned for the playoffs and seemed to run out of gas in October.

The Dodgers are, of course, keeping a close eye on the health of their best player, but after every outing that passes, they have less and less concerns over his health -- even in an outing where Kershaw gave up three home runs.

"I think anytime somebody has a back injury, you're always a little bit concerned; but I think with Kersh and how focused and dedicated he is to his preparation, it gives us as much confidence that you can possibly have that it is in the rearview mirror," said Dodgers president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman.

Also in Kershaw's own rearview mirror is Saturday's start.

"You gotta finish out your outing," Kershaw said. "After that first bloop fell in in the sixth, you've got to limit the damage."