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Clayton Kershaw dominates in Dodgers’ series-clinching win over Cubs

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws to the plate during the third inning.
Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers during the third inning of a 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs on Sunday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

Clayton Kershaw hopped off the mound and took several steps toward the third base dugout, the Dodgers left-hander so sure he had struck out Chicago Cubs slugger Anthony Rizzo to end the first inning Sunday that he didn’t bother looking for umpire Ryan Blakney’s call.

Kershaw, his eight teammates on the field and a crowd of 46,315 in Dodger Stadium were stunned when the belt-high slider on the inside corner was called a ball, but it only delayed the inevitable.

Two pitches later, Kershaw whiffed Rizzo with an 86-mph slider, setting the tone for a late-afternoon display of dominance in which Kershaw gave up one run and four hits, struck out a season-high 13 and walked one in eight innings of a 7-1 victory over the Cubs.

Kershaw induced 26 swings and misses during his 101-pitch, 70-strike gem, a season high and the fifth most in his 14-year career, 22 of them with a sharp-breaking slider that averaged 86.4 mph.

Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw strikes out 13 batters in win over Cubs.

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He used the slider to end 10 of his strikeouts. He used his looping, 74-mph curve on his other three whiffs.

Zach McKinstry’s first career grand slam and Cody Bellinger’s two-run homer highlighted a six-run second inning that gave Kershaw more than enough support, as the Dodgers extended their win streak to three entering a two-game series against the National League West-leading San Francisco Giants.

“I was getting some swing and misses on the slider, I was able to use it to both sides of the plate, and I told Dave [Roberts, Dodgers manager] that any time you get to pitch a 4:15 p.m. game in Dodger Stadium with the shadows, it’s a good game,” Kershaw said. “It’s not easy to see there, so I’ll take it for sure.”

Kershaw, who improved to 9-7 with a 3.25 ERA, had not whiffed 13 in a game since a complete-game win over the Kansas City Royals on July 9, 2017.

Clayton Kershaw, right, smiles at home plate umpire Ryan Blakney after being checked for "sticky stuff."
Clayton Kershaw, right, smiles at home plate umpire Ryan Blakney after being checked for “sticky stuff” as he walks off the field during the second inning.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

He struck out two batters in each of the first two innings, three in the third and two more in the fourth.

“It was crazy,” Bellinger said on ESPN’s postgame show. “In the fourth inning, I looked up and saw eight strikeouts, and I thought it was an error on the scoreboard.”

Roberts thought Kershaw’s stuff was a much bigger factor in his performance than the late-afternoon shadows.

Kershaw’s only blemish was a solo homer by Javy Baez in the fourth. He received a rousing standing ovation as he walked off the field after the eighth.

“I really don’t think the shadows mattered,” Roberts said. “He was using the slider down underneath to righties, he was back-dooring it, he used the curve a little more today, he was getting ahead like he does. He was just in complete control. You saw it from pitch one. … It’s hard to imagine him being any better.”

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The Dodgers took advantage of Cubs starter Adbert Alzolay’s control problems to pounce in the second, McKinstry following Matt Beaty’s hit by pitch and walks to Chris Taylor and Gavin Lux with his first grand slam at any level, a 378-foot shot to right field for a 4-0 lead.

Austin Barnes struck out, and Kershaw grounded out, but Baez’s throwing error on Mookie Betts’ grounder gave Bellinger, who won Saturday’s game with a walk-off homer in the ninth, another crack at Alzolay.

Bellinger didn’t waste it, crushing a towering two-run homer to right for a 6-0 lead. Betts tripled and scored on Bellinger’s sacrifice fly in the sixth for a 7-1 lead.

McKinstry, who also singled in the third inning, hit .204 (11 for 54) with a .575 on-base-plus-slugging percentage, one homer and eight RBIs in his first 20 games since returning from a right-oblique strain on May 29, but the utility man believes he has corrected an important flaw in his approach and swing.

Zach McKinstry hits a grand slam off Chicago Cubs starting pitcher Adbert Alzolay during the second inning Sunday.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

“I was closing my eyes on contact, which is wild to think,” McKinstry said. “I saw it in San Diego [last week], started working on it, making sure my eyes are open, and it helped. I started seeing the ball a little longer out of the pitcher’s hand, and I’ve been hitting the ball hard ever since.

“I had the same problem when I was younger. My dad and I kind of laugh about it. You need your eyes to hit, so it’s definitely a priority.”

Roberts said he had never had a player with a similar issue.

“That was a new one for me,” he said with a laugh. “I’m glad we detected that. He probably wouldn’t have hit the grand slam if his eyes were closed.”

Highlights from the Dodgers’ 7-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs at Dodger Stadium on Sunday.


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