Matt Kamlet, CBSLA.com
LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Clayton Kershaw struck out Danny Espinosa to lead off the game and record his 1,000th career strikeout — and that only set the tone for his ensuing performance.
Kershaw (4-2) struck out 11 and beat the Washington Nationals 2-0 Tuesday at Dodger Stadium. He was one strike away from earning his second complete-game of the season.
Clayton Kershaw’s career ERA at 2.70 is the lowest among starters, who have 1,000 innings under their belt, since 1920.
The 25-year-old southpaw earned his first win since April 28, got out of a jam after two base hits and a walk loaded the bases for the Nationals in the first inning. The Dodgers ace then used a curveball to get Tyler Moore swinging to end the inning.
The rest was history for the Nationals.
Kershaw, who’s 1.40 ERA leads the majors, recovered from a 29-pitch first inning to retire 23 of the last 26 batters.
Andre Ethier connected on a pitch in the third inning to score both Kershaw, who was hit by a pitch, and Matt Kemp, who was batting out of the two-hole in the lineup, and singled earlier in the inning to expand his hitting streak to 13 games. Ethier’s RBI single made it 2-0 Dodgers.
The Dodgers had scored no more than two runs in each of the 2011 NL Cy Young Award Winner’s last three starts, and in six of his eight starts up until Tuesday.
It was a pitchers’ duel over the next six frames.
Kershaw, who had come off back-to-back no-decisions, threw 132 pitches in the game, the most of his career, and was one strike away from earning the complete game shutout — it would have been his second of the young season.
Adam LaRoche came to the plate with two outs in the top of the ninth. After a 10-pitch at bat, LaRoche singled to center.
Don Mattingly came out to the mound, to the disapproval of Dodger fans, and lifted Kershaw from the game.
Kenley Jansen came in relief and it took him all of four pitches to end the game, giving the Dodgers their third win in four games.
“Clayton was pretty special from the beginning,” Mattingly said after the game. “He was rolling right away. He seemed to be on a mission.”
Kershaw’s enormous performance provided a much needed rest for the bullpen, who was used heavily in Game 1 of the series after starter Josh Beckett left after the third inning with a strained groin.
The club will go for their second consecutive series victory tomorrow in Game 3 against the Nationals.
The Dodgers also announced Tuesday that Zack Greinke will make his first start Wednesday since breaking his collarbone taking a charge from San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin.
Greinke signed a $147 million contract with the Dodgers during the offseason, going 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA in two starts before the incident in San Diego.