His last, dreadful game still a fresh memory, Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw called his mom, Marianne, wished her a happy Mother's Day and then prepared to face perhaps the best pitcher in baseball.
"You can't give that team any runs with him pitching," the left-handed Kershaw said of the Colorado Rockies and their ace Ubaldo Jimenez, who began the game with a 6-0 record and an 0.87 earned-run averge, not to mention a no-hitter last month.
So the 22-year-old Kershaw did just that, pitching a magnificent eight innings in which he gave up two hits and, with Jonathan Broxton working the ninth inning for the save, leading the Dodgers to a 2-0 win and handing Jimenez his first loss.
Kershaw's performance was even more notable because it came after he was pounded by the Milwaukee Brewers for seven runs in only 1 1/3 innings in his previous start, the shortest of his career.
But his outing Sunday at Dodger Stadium was "probably the best I've ever seen him," catcher Russell Martin said, and it was the first time this season that the Dodgers shut out an opponent.
Martin gave Kershaw (2-2) and the Dodgers a big insurance run in the eighth inning when he hit a home run into the left-field paviliion against Matt Daley.
Otherwise the game was a consummate pitchers' duel that galloped along in 2 hours 19 minutes, with Jimenez giving up only two hits in seven innings.
But the two hits would be all the Dodgers would need until Martin's home run. They came in the third inning when Blake DeWitt hit a leadoff double and scored when Jamey Carroll lined a single that glanced off Jimenez's glove and rolled into right field.
The win "was a big lift for us" after the Dodgers were shut down by the Rockies, 8-0, on Saturday, Manager Joe Torre said. "Jimenez piched one heck of a game, and our seventh and eighth hitters got the [key] hits."
Kershaw needed 30 pitches to get through the first inning. After the Texan walked Dexter Fowler, Troy Tulowitzki laid down a bunt single and Ryan Spilborghs walked, loading the bases with two out. But Kershaw struck out Ian Stewart to quell the threat.
"He went out there and threw 30 pitches in the first inning and [ultimately] pitched eight innings; that's a pretty good commentary right there" on Kershaw's resilience, Torre said. "He was doing it all. He threw sliders, curveballs, change-ups; he used all his pitches."
But Martin said it was Kershaw's command of his fastball that made all the other pitches so effective.
"He was throwing some off-speed pitches for strikes as well, and when he's doing that, the hitters can't just sit on his fastball and that's huge," Martin said. "He was getting strike one early, especially after battling through that first inning. After that he was crowding guys inside, throwing breaking balls for strikes."
Kershaw agreed that "I just had better command today. I was making them hit my pitches instead of working behind in the count."
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