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Ethier's hit caps solid debut by Kershaw

Outfielder's 10th-inning single lifts the Dodgers, 4-3, over St. Louis after rookie pitcher shines.

May 26, 2008|Kevin Baxter | Times Staff Writer

Jason Schmidt stood at the far end of the Dodgers' clubhouse late Sunday afternoon, a towel wrapped around his waist and a bemused smile on his face.

Twice he had tried to get back to his locker, only to be repelled by the pack of notepads, TV cameras and microphones crowded around Clayton Kershaw who, unfortunately for Schmidt, was given the stall next to his.

So Schmidt finally gave up, plopped down in a chair, and watched.

The Clayton Kershaw Era had finally arrived at Dodger Stadium. And Schmidt, like most of his teammates, found himself relegated to the role of spectator.

"It was impressive," right-hander Brad Penny said after Kershaw turned in six solid innings in the Dodgers' 4-3, 10-inning win over the St. Louis Cardinals. "He came out, attacked them. Didn't back down from anyone. He's going to be fun to watch every fifth day."

"He's the real deal," agreed Manager Joe Torre, a view shared by outfielder Andre Ethier.

"He's here," Ethier said, "for a reason."

Even the Cardinals took note.

"You don't like losing, but that was fun to watch," hitting coach Hal McRae said. "He obviously has a lot of ability. He's got a future."

About the only thing he doesn't have yet is a big league win, although he was in line for that too, after holding St. Louis to two runs and five hits through six innings. And one of those runs was tainted, with Brian Barton reaching base with one out in the sixth inning when his lazy popup bounced off first baseman James Loney's head after Loney lost the ball in the cloudy sky.

Two batters later, Barton scored when third baseman Blake DeWitt threw high to the plate after fielding Ryan Ludwick's grounder.

Then with Kershaw in the dugout, the Cardinals rallied for an unearned run in the seventh inning on a walk, a stolen base, a throwing error and a fly ball, costing Kershaw the victory and sending the game into extra innings, where it was eventually decided on Ethier's two-out run-scoring hit.

If any of that bothered the baby-faced left-hander, he wasn't letting on.

"It doesn't matter if you get no decision," said Kershaw, 20. "As long as your team wins, that's really all that you're there for. Just give your team a chance to win."

And he certainly did that, shaking off a troublesome 32-pitch first inning in which he gave up a run while striking out the side.

"After that, I really felt a lot better," said Kershaw, who registered seven of the Dodgers' season-high 16 strikeouts. "It was a dream come true. It's what you've been working for, dreaming about, thinking about for your whole life.

"As a baseball player, it doesn't get a whole lot better than today."

The Dodgers acknowledged they were in need of a spark after scoring only once in two previous games against the Cardinals.

"It was a good lift for us," Torre said. "No question it was an emotional game. Everybody saw enough of him in the spring to get excited about the prospects of him coming up here."

It certainly seemed to motivate the Dodgers' bullpen, with Joe Beimel, Jonathan Broxton and Takashi Saito getting nine of the final 12 outs on strikeouts. And it was the 38-year-old Saito, the Dodgers' oldest pitcher, who wound up with the win in a game started by the youngest pitcher in the major leagues.

"Yeah, but let's not talk about age," Saito said with a grin.

Age, after all, measures the past. And on Sunday the Dodgers were focusing on the future.

"He's definitely going to give us a boost of energy," catcher Russell Martin said of Kershaw. "He's a left-hander who throws 96 mph with a snap-dragon curveball and a nasty changeup. That's pretty good. Not a lot of guys have that kind of stuff in the majors."

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kevin.baxter@latimes.com

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