A week and a half ago, Clayton Kershaw got himself and the Dodgers on track.
His eight-inning gem against Colorado on May 9 began a nine-game streak that quieted pitching concerns and put the team to within one game of first place in the National League West.
Kershaw and the Dodgers have been brilliant since, winning 10 of 11 games, the latest a 4-1 victory Thursday against San Diego.
The 22-year-old left hander gave up just one run and struck out seven in 7 1/3 innings before strolling to the dugout as most in the announced crowd of 38,856 at Dodger Stadium cheered his every step.
Kershaw — who had a horrible in start in Milwaukee on May 4, giving up seven runs in 11/3 innings — has allowed just two runs in 22 1/3 innings for a 0.81 earned-run average in his three starts since.
What's changed? Kershaw isn't sure.
"Just getting more outs is the easy answer," he said, smiling. "Throwing more strikes. Just making them beat me instead of beating myself."
It was a rematch of Saturday's duel at Petco Park, between the Padres' Kevin Correia and Kershaw, which Kershaw won handily with similar numbers.
"I'm not saying that it's easy to go out twice in a row against the same team and do what he's done, but he knows his stuff now and he looks a little more relaxed," Dodgers Manager Joe Torre said.
Torre added that Kershaw takes a business-like approach to the mound, as if he's going to the office, which has helped him rebound from that horrible outing four starts ago.
"He's all about looking ahead," Torre said. "He doesn't sit there and admire what he's done yesterday or worry about what he did yesterday."
Kershaw (4-2) got some run support in the sixth inning from left fielder Garret Anderson, who entered the game batting .127 and riding a three-for-20 slump that began May 1.
Obviously, the 16-year-veteran's first season as a pinch hitter isn't going so well, but with one out and two runners on, Anderson blooped a sacrifice fly to score outfielder Matt Kemp from third, giving the Dodgers a 2-1 lead.
After the Padres' Correia (4-4) intentionally walked Blake DeWitt, Jamey Carroll singled to right and James Loney scored.
Then, with Kershaw at bat, Correia threw a wild pitch and DeWitt scored.
Those runs were enough for Kershaw, who finished with seven strikeouts. Ronald Belisario bridged the gap to closer Jonathan Broxton, who picked up his eighth save of the season when Matt Stairs whiffed on his 97-mph fastball to end it.
The Dodgers are now, again, one game back of San Diego for first place in the NL West as they head into interleague play, which starts with a weekend series against Detroit.
"We started off slow, but we turned it around," said Broxton, who has gone seven for seven in save opportunities since May 7. "We're playing ball right now. We've just got to keep it up."
Catcher Russell Martin extended his career-long hitting streak to 15 games, the longest current streak in the major leagues and the longest for a Dodger since Orlando Hudson's 17-game streak in 2009. Martin is batting .305 (18 for 59) in that span.
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