Clayton Kershaw’s left arm is strong enough to lift Dodgers, who end six-game skid with 1-0 win
Inside the dugout, as the Dodgers prepared for the final inning, Dave Roberts did not dare speak to Clayton Kershaw. There was nothing to say. Kershaw had dragged the team this far, squashing the San Diego Padres for eight innings with his arm and propelling his own team’s moribund offense with his bat. The afternoon belonged to him.
“You talk about great players putting teams on their back, and that’s what he did today,” Roberts said. “He won’t say that, but that’s what he did today. He wasn’t going to be denied. He was going to finish the game.”
Kershaw left no doubt. He bulldozed the Padres in the ninth as he had all day. En route to the 13th shutout of his career, a 1-0 gulp of oxygen for a team suffocated during a six-game losing streak, he acted as a one-man band. He struck out 14, limited his opponents to three singles and delivered the game-winning RBI single.
It was like something out of Little League, Roberts joked. It’s why they call Kershaw a stopper, third baseman Justin Turner said. “That’s about as dominant as it gets,” shortstop Corey Seager said.
The victory cleansed some of the bitterness from the past week at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers (13-13) continue to search for runs as veterans like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig and Turner stumble through slumps. The group approached a place of desperation heading into Sunday. Kershaw sensed the mood.
“You’d be lying if you said you don’t want to be the guy who ends the streak,” Kershaw said. “So that definitely feels good. We needed a win. There’s no doubt about it. It wasn’t pretty today.”
Tied up by Padres starter Drew Pomeranz, the Dodgers managed only three hits. But the output was enough. Kershaw made it so. He let the team exhale before a day off Monday and a trip to Tampa Bay and Toronto this week.
The losing streak included a contribution from Kershaw. The Marlins staggered him with a five-run barrage in one inning Tuesday. Roberts mentioned on Sunday afternoon how the club could not afford to lose twice in a row in Kershaw starts, and how the man himself intended to “atone” for his last performance.
Kershaw made his intentions clear at the outset. He struck out the side in the first inning, freezing the Padres under the glare of the sun with his fastball and his curveball. “He’s got no-hit stuff today,” catcher A.J. Ellis told Roberts back in the dugout.
Kershaw recorded a hit before the Padres did. He came to the plate in the bottom of the third after Ellis had thumped a one-out double. Pomeranz flipped a curveball over the plate. Kershaw guided a single up the middle.
“That might have been the one curveball he left up,” Kershaw said. “I hit a groundball, and it found a hole.”
Behind the plate, umpire Marty Foster called strikes on Kershaw’s outside fastballs, which aided his slider. The combination produced 25 swinging strikes — 15 on sliders, 10 on fastballs.
“I was starting to think we didn’t have to go out there on defense,” Turner said.
The economy of his effort stood out. Kershaw required 101 pitches to complete his dissection. He faced 29 batters. Only one managed to induce a three-ball count. That was first baseman Wil Myers, in the seventh inning, the lone trouble spot for Kershaw.
Kershaw dislikes defensive shifts, but the Dodgers still moved three infielders to the left side of second base for Myers. He rolled a grounder toward the vacated area to the right of the bag. Matt Kemp, Kershaw’s former teammate, flared a single into shallow right. Myers braked at third base as Kershaw regrouped.
“I’m sure internally he was boiling,” Ellis said. “But externally, he just stayed focused.”
Upton trudged to the dugout. Kershaw pounded a fastball on the fists of catcher Derek Norris. A harmless fly ball landed in Enrique Hernandez’s glove in left field. The Padres did not produce another baserunner.
The streak ended, and the Dodgers celebrated. A group of players danced in the clubhouse and emptied a colossal bag of popcorn. Kershaw, the man who produced the victory, iced his left arm and packed a bag for the road.
“Hey, we have a win today,” Kershaw said. “I don’t know how it happened, but we got one. That’s good. We get that little monkey off our back.”
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