Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers look unbeatable in 8-2 win over Rays
The Dodgers had just toyed with the Tampa Bay Rays, in front of a sellout crowd and a national television audience. The Dodgers rarely lose anymore, and so a television reporter asked Adrian Gonzalez if they felt unbeatable.
“Definitely not unbeatable,” he said.
Not really a preferred sound bite, not when Gonzalez stopped after three words. So the reporter tried again, asking what pitfalls might await the Dodgers.
“Thinking you’re unbeatable,” Gonzalez said.
Another three-word answer. Not great TV, but more great baseball, as Clayton Kershaw led the Dodgers to an 8-2 rout on Sunday. The Rays are one of the best teams in the major leagues, but the Dodgers outscored Tampa Bay, 20-8, in the three-game sweep, scoring 20 of the final 22 runs in the series.
The Dodgers are on a 37-8 roll, tying the best 45-game mark in National League history in the last 60 years.
The 1953 Brooklyn Dodgers — with a lineup that featured future Hall of Famers Jackie Robinson, Roy Campanella, Pee Wee Reese and Duke Snider — were the last NL team to win 37 of 45 games.
Mark Ellis played on the 2002 Oakland Athletics team that won 20 consecutive games, a team led in real life — but not in the “Moneyball” telling — by MVP Miguel Tejada, Cy Young Award winner Barry Zito and fellow aces Mark Mulder and Tim Hudson.
“This [stretch] doesn’t compare to that, yet,” Ellis said. “But there is more talent on this team.”
Kershaw is the most premium of talent on this team, the anchor for a collection of stars gathered from far and wide.
The Dodgers do not often score for him, so he gave up one earned run in eight innings — lowering his earned-run average to 1.88, best in the majors — and singled home the Dodgers’ first two runs, in the second inning.
“Clayton took care of his own business early,” Manager Don Mattingly said. “He was like, ‘OK, I’m going to get my own runs.’”
Gonzalez doubled home two runs. He has driven in 74 runs this season; no teammate has driven in more than 41.
Ellis drove in three runs, one on a double and two on his sixth home run of the season.
That pretty much left matters up to Kershaw, who took a no-hitter into the fifth inning. He gave up three hits, but catcher A.J. Ellis said Kershaw would get his no-hitter someday.
“I’m looking forward to the day it happens,” Ellis said. “It’s almost inevitable.”
In the meantime, Kershaw (11-7) won for the first time since July 26.
The Dodgers are 13-2 since then, with both losses in Kershaw starts — even though he gave up a total of two runs in those two starts.
“You can’t control wins and losses,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel good to put a W by your name.”
Kershaw improved to 49-0 when the Dodgers score at least four runs for him.
“You get four runs, you’re supposed to win,” he said with a shrug.
Said Mattingly: “Seems like all of his stats are off the chart.”
The Dodgers opened a 71/2-game lead in the NL West, their largest of the season. Fans might want to say the race is over, but Kershaw said September will matter.
Definitely not unbeatable, and all that.
“There’s a lot of people in here who understand the opportunity we have,” Kershaw said. “You don’t get a lot of chances to be in first place this late in the season.
“We’re going to try not to take that for granted.”
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