Clayton Kershaw's outing is better, and well-received, in Dodgers win

Clayton Kershaw pitches to a new catcher, Yasmani Grandal instead of A.J. Ellis, and gets first win of season

Yasiel Puig's continued absence in right field wasn't the only abnormal part of the Dodgers lineup Friday night.

On a night when Clayton Kershaw was the starting pitcher, A.J. Ellis wasn't the catcher. For the first time this season, Yasmani Grandal was.

The new partnership resulted in Kershaw's first victory of the season, as the left-hander pitched six innings in a 7-3 win over the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium.

Kershaw's early-season funk continued and the ace missed his spots on occasion, which resulted in his serving up home runs on down-the-middle fastballs to Troy Tulowitzki and Charlie Blackmon that accounted for the Rockies' three runs.

Kershaw has given up three homers in his last two games. He gave up only nine all of last season, when he was named the most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner of the National League.

"I still think Clayton's searching. He's probably totally not happy with what's going on," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said. "He doesn't quite seem like himself yet. I don't think he's hit his groove yet."

Nonetheless, this performance was superior to his last. Kershaw was charged with only one earned run, as an error by Adrian Gonzalez preceded Blackmon's two-out, two-run homer in the fifth inning. Kershaw struck out 12, including five in a row in a stretch that started in the second inning, and walked one.

"Obviously, too many pitches," said Kershaw, who made 104 pitches. "Give credit to the Rockies, but my job is to go seven, eight, nine innings every time.

"I think my fastball location was better tonight. I missed up a little bit. I still need to get better with the off-speed stuff."

Six days earlier, with Ellis catching, Kershaw was charged with six runs (five earned) and 10 hits in 61/3 innings of a defeat to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mattingly said the change at catcher was to gain an matchup advantage, but offered no specifics. Ellis is hitless in 10 at-bats this season.

Grandal came into the game two for seven with a double and two walks in his previous nine plate appearances against Rockies starter Kyle Kendrick. Ellis was four for nine.

Grandal caught two of Kershaw's starts in spring training, and the second was better than the first. Kershaw praised Grandal at the time, but declined to elaborate on his catching preferences.

After Friday's game, Kershaw said of Grandal: "He did good. Very prepared. He had a good game plan. Just didn't execute on my part."

Kershaw was handed a 3-0 lead in the first inning, when Gonzalez doubled in Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick followed with a two-run home run.

Tulowitzki's solo home run in the fourth and Blackmon's two-run blast in the fifth brought immediate responses from the Dodgers offense, which matched the Rockies run-for-run in those innings.

And Kershaw struck out Corey Dickerson and Drew Stubbs with a runner on third to escape trouble in the sixth.

As for Puig, the information regarding the condition of his left hamstring varied depending on the source.

Puig wasn't in the lineup for a third consecutive game, but said he expected to return to the lineup tonight.

"One more day," he said in Spanish.

Mattingly didn't sound as optimistic. The manager watched Puig before the game as he tested his hamstring by running sprints in front of trainer Stan Conte.

"He ran pretty good, but, obviously, he's still feeling a little something," Mattingly said.

With Puig sidelined, Andre Ethier started in right field for the third consecutive game.

Puig said he didn't think the injury would land him on the 15-day disabled list. Mattingly said he hoped that was the case, but didn't dismiss the possibility entirely.

dylan.hernandez@latimes.com

Twitter: @dylanohernandez

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