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Clayton Kershaw flirts with perfect game in Dodgers' 3-0 win

Clayton Kershaw flirts with perfect game in Dodgers' 3-0 win
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw. (Paul Buck / European Pressphoto Agency)

This is when you know a pitcher has reached the peak of his profession: Clayton Kershaw has another brilliant outing Wednesday and what people will talk about is that he did not throw a perfect game or no-hitter.

He did, however, come close.

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Kershaw retired 16 consecutive batters to open the game, ultimately giving up three hits in his eight innings to lead the Dodgers to a 3-0 victory over the Washington Nationals before a Dodger Stadium crowd of 44,911.

Backed by a couple of nice defensive plays by Enrique Hernandez, on this night playing shortstop, Kershaw was still working on a perfect game with one out in the sixth when rookie Michael Taylor lined a double off the center-field wall.

And there would be no perfect game, or a second no-hitter. He would just have to settle for a tremendous outing.

Kershaw had to be at the absolute top of his game because Washington's Jordan Zimmermann was also pitching a dazzling game for the Nationals. Zimmermann  gave up only two hits in his seven innings, walking one and striking out nine.

The one walk, however, was costly.

Joc Pederson walked on a full count to lead off the third inning, took second on rookie Jose Peraza's groundout and scored when Carl Crawford lined a single to left. Crawford also doubled in the first, collecting both of the Dodgers' hits off Zimmermann (8-8).

Kershaw, the National League's reigning most valuable player and Cy Young Award winner, threw his first career no-hitter last summer against the Rockies.

On Wednesday he threw eight scoreless innings, striking out eight while not walking a batter. Kershaw raised his record to 10-6 and his season strikeout total to  205, best in the majors. Kershaw is just the third pitcher in modern National League history to strike out 200 or more batters in six consecutive seasons, joining Sandy Koufax (1961-66) and Tom Seaver (1968-76).

Kershaw has been on some kind of impressive roll for some time now. He had a 37-inning scoreless streaked snapped in his last outing. But in his last 14 starts, he has a 1.30 earned-run average with 132 strikeouts and only 14 walks in 108 2/3 innings.

The Dodgers added a pair of insurance runs against Drew Storen in the eighth inning. Pederson again started it,  this time by being hit by a pitch. Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier lined a double into the right-field corner, Pederson initially stopping at third.

But second baseman Anthony Rendon's relay throw headed to places unknown. It landed behind the third-base line and skipped into the stands. The error scored both Pederson and Ethier (a runner advances two bases on a throwing error into the stands).

Kenley Jansen came on to pitch a scoreless ninth, retiring the side in order to secure his 23rd save.

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