LOS ANGELES (AP) – Clayton Kershaw hears the Cy Young Award talk swirling around him, although he won’t indulge it. With his 20th victory and major league-leading 2.27 ERA, the low-key Los Angeles Dodgers ace is letting his numbers do the talking.
Kershaw became the club’s first 20-game winner in 21 years with a 2-1 victory over the San Francisco Giants on Tuesday night, making him 5-0 against the rival Giants this season.
Four of those victories came against two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum, with Kershaw allowing one earned run in those games. Three of the victories were by scores of 2-1, and the other was a 1-0 decision.
“He’s leading in a lot of categories and putting up a 20-win season is huge, especially with the team they’ve got,” Lincecum said. “He’s done a magnificent job this year.”
The Dodgers’ fourth straight victory lifted them a game above .500 for the first time since April 29.
Kershaw (20-5) is vying to win the so-called Triple Crown of pitching. He’s tied with Arizona’s Ian Kennedy for the NL lead in wins, his ERA is tops in baseball and his 242 strikeouts lead the league.
The last Dodgers pitcher to claim the Triple Crown was Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax from 1963-65, when he won the Cy Young in each of those seasons.
“If this boy doesn’t win the Cy Young, something is definitely wrong,” said Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp, who, like Kershaw, is having a career year in an otherwise dreary season for the financially troubled franchise.
Kershaw’s competition includes Philadelphia teammates Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee, and Kennedy.
Besides dominating the defending World Series champion Giants, Kershaw’s stats include a 3-1 record with a 1.42 ERA against NL West-leading Arizona.
The 23-year-old left-hander from Dallas has won a career-high seven straight decisions, and 11 in a row at Chavez Ravine. He limited the Giants to one run on six hits and struck out six in 7 1-3 innings.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game, there’s no doubt about that,” said Giants slugger Carlos Beltran, who had two hits and two strikeouts against Kershaw.
“From the left side, to me, he’s one of the best, close to Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. He’s having a great season and it’s good to watch a young man growing up in the game of baseball the way he’s doing.”
Kershaw has brushed aside questions about the possibility of winning the Cy Young and after notching his 20th win all he would say was “if I were to receive that, it wouldn’t go lightly.”
He can solidify his Cy Young bid with a victory in his final start Sunday at San Diego.
“The whole body of work has been tremendous,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “The kid’s been doing this every time out for the most part. The performances speak for themselves. You don’t need to politic for him.”
Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to win 20 games since Ramon Martinez went 20-6 in 1990 when he was 22. Kershaw is the second-youngest 20-game winner in franchise history and the 16th overall.
His repertoire has evolved to include four pitches for strikes, with his curveball being especially effective lately, and he’s gobbled up innings, helping the Dodgers’ shaky bullpen this season.
“This guy has been the most consistent and you can’t look past a guy like that. There’s no give with him,” Dodgers catcher Rod Barajas said. “He knows how to make adjustments. That’s what makes him great.”
Kershaw issued just two walks in his latest win over the Giants and left the game to a standing ovation.
“He has great stuff. Plus he throws over 95 and he has confidence in every single pitch,” Beltran said. “He throws one slider at 88 and another one 84, along with a changeup and a curveball, so he’s a guy who mixes his pitches well and that’s why he’s been so successful.”
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