Clayton Kershaw could one day look back on Sunday and recall it as the day that changed his career. So could Andruw Jones.
The 20-year-old Kershaw pitched six scoreless innings in his 10th major league start to earn his first victory at this level, a 2-0 triumph over the Washington Nationals at Dodger Stadium that drew the Dodgers to an even .500 and maintained a one-game distance between them and first-place Arizona in the National League West.
The 31-year-old Jones, who signed a two-year, $36-million contract to anchor the Dodgers' outfield and provide power in the middle of the lineup, started the game on the bench, relegated to being the fourth outfielder that morning by Manager Joe Torre.
Jones and his .166 batting average will presumably be on the bench tonight when the Dodgers (52-52) play host to the San Francisco Giants in the first game of a three-game series, and they'll stay there until further notice.
"Right now, we're going to go with the hot hands," Torre said.
That would be Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Juan Pierre, who returned Friday from a sprained knee ligament.
"If those guys stay hot, those are the guys that are going to play," Torre said. "We're at a time of the year when wins are important for us."
Translation: The Dodgers, who are trying to overtake the Diamondbacks for the division lead, can't wait any longer for Jones to start hitting.
Exceptions could be made when the Dodgers face a left-hander, as will be the case Wednesday when Jonathan Sanchez takes the mound for the Giants.
Jones, who has two home runs and 12 runs batted in in 187 at-bats, said Torre spoke to him and that he understood the manager's reasoning.
The five-time All-Star and 10-time Gold Glove Award winner said that he wasn't exactly sure of what he could do to extract himself from this situation other than to continue working with hitting coaches Don Mattingly and Jeff Pentland.
"I've never been in a situation like this," Jones said.
Kershaw has also endured previously unknown falls, but with the comfort of knowing that at his age, better times were probably ahead.
Sent back to double A on July 2, he was recalled 22 days later to start at Denver and gave up five runs and 10 hits in three innings against Colorado.
He encountered no such trouble facing the Nationals, who have scored two runs in their last four games, a span in which they're hitting .133.
Kershaw limited the Nationals to four hits and a walk, striking out five.
"I've been waiting for this for a long time," said Kershaw, who didn't earn his first win at any level this season until he picked up a victory for Jacksonville on July 11. "One out of 10 isn't a great percentage, but it's awesome.
"This is what they expected of me. That's what I'm supposed to do."
Kershaw pitched into the seventh inning but was removed after issuing a lead-off walk to Austin Kearns. Chan Ho Park, Hong-Chih Kuo and Jonathan Broxton combined to pitch three scoreless innings, with Broxton picking up his fourth save by retiring the side in the ninth inning.
The Dodgers didn't do much offensively, their scoring limited to a home run by James Loney in the second inning and a single by Russell Martin in the fifth inning that drove in Pierre.
General Manager Ned Colletti said he was pleased with the way the club was rounding into shape, pointing to the resurgence of the rotation and the trade for third baseman Casey Blake. The extra bat in the lineup gave Torre the luxury of batting Ethier eighth on Sunday.
"It feels like we've been climbing Mt. Everest, but we're up to .500," Colletti said.