Clayton Kershaw remains unbeatable at home as Dodgers defeat Cardinals
Joc Pederson, back in his natural habitat in the outfield, sprinted into the right-center field gap Tuesday night. His instincts took over and his pitcher helplessly watched. Clayton Kershaw was pessimistic about his right fielder’s chances. Andrew Knizner’s line drive appeared destined for extra bases and Kershaw, probably facing his final batter, appeared destined for a disappointing conclusion.
But Pederson caught the baseball two paces in front of the warning track in right field, igniting a boom from the Dodger Stadium crowd, to end the seventh inning of the Dodgers’ 3-1 win over the St. Louis Cardinals.
A few hundred feet away, Kershaw’s mouth was agape in appreciative relief.
“Wow,” Kershaw said as he slowly strolled off the field. He chuckled and smiled and he waited in front of the Dodgers’ dugout to thank Pederson. They tapped gloves. Kershaw patted him on the butt. Another sterling performance from Kershaw was over with the Dodgers’ lead intact.
“He just started sprinting after it and I didn’t expect him to get to it and he did, so it was awesome,” Kershaw said. “Obviously, a huge play for us and probably the difference in the game.”
The Dodgers placed outfielder Alex Verdugo on the 10-day injured list with a strained right oblique as their injuries pile up.
First baseman Cody Bellinger also made a couple of nifty plays to help Kershaw shut down the Cardinals (58-54) over seven frames after a rocky start. He shaped his slider and changed speeds with it to torment batters. He landed his curveball for strikes. His fastball was crisp, steadily touching 92 mph.
Kershaw gave up one run and four hits. He accumulated nine strikeouts and one walk after issuing a season-high five bases on balls in his previous outing. The recipe created Kershaw’s 11th win and 20th straight start of at least six innings. His ERA sunk to 2.77 as the Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the National League West dropped to 30.
“This guy is the best pitcher of our generation,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. “So to count him out, or think he can’t do something, you’re not going to hear from me.”
The offense capitalized on its few opportunities to stock just enough support. Kristopher Negron, continuing his strong start as a Dodger, lined a two-out RBI single in the second inning and Justin Turner smacked an RBI double in the third. The final blow came in the seventh inning on Max Muncy’s two-out run-scoring ground ball through the shift off left-hander Andrew Miller.
The insurance RBI was the Dodgers’ 225th with two outs this season — three more than the Dodgers (76-40) generated last season and most in the National League.
“Our hitting guys have done a great job, just talking about putting together good at-bats and not trying to go for the long ball,” Roberts said.
The Cardinals took advantage of Kershaw’s departure in the eighth inning to generate their first scoring threat since the second frame.
Tony Gonsolin dazzled over six scoreless innings in his Dodger Stadium debut Monday. On Tuesday, he was sent to triple A to remain on a set schedule.
Adam Kolarek, called on to specifically face the left-handed-hitting Kolten Wong, induced a weak ground ball to the left side, but the Dodgers, in a shift, left the area uncovered and Wong reached on a single.
Pedro Baez was summoned and got Dexter Fowler to pop out before giving up a single to Jose Martinez, putting runners on the corners with one out. The dangerous Paul Goldschmidt lined out to short before Baez walked Marcell Ozuna on a 3-2 pitch to load the bases.
Dodger Stadium stirred, anxiety suddenly stuffing the ballpark. Baez remained stoic as Paul DeJong stepped into the batter’s box. Baez pounded the strike zone, and DeJong whiffed on the sixth pitch of the encounter, a 97-mph fastball up the ladder.
“I simply focused on throwing my best pitch, which is my fastball,” Baez said in Spanish, “and I tried to locate it in a good spot.”
Kenley Jansen closed it out for his 26th save, striking out Wong with Knizner on first.
Fowler, hitting .370 against Kershaw before the game, continued giving him problems Tuesday. The center fielder led the game off with a double and added a leadoff single in the third inning. Fowler, however, was stranded both times. Instead, the Cardinals scored the game’s first run off Kershaw in the second inning.
DeJong swatted a leadoff double before Matt Carpenter stepped to the plate. Carpenter, sporting a .212 batting average, showed bunt twice, including once with two strikes, before deciding to swing away. The puzzling at-bat ended with Carpenter roping the next pitch down the right-field line for an RBI single.
To that point, with one out in the second inning, the Cardinals had more hits (three) and runs (one) than they generated in their loss Monday. They appeared poised to snap out of an offensive funk. But Kershaw retired 12 straight batters after allowing the leadoff single to Fowler in the third.
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