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Dodgers' bullpen finally saves it for Clayton Kershaw

Left-hander strikes out 11 and leaves with a 4-0 lead, but Vicente Padilla is shaky in the ninth inning and Kenley Jansen gets the last out in a 4-3 victory over the Diamondbacks.

May 13, 2011|By Jim Peltz
  • Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw winds up during the Dodgers' 4-3 victory Friday over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers starter Clayton Kershaw winds up during the Dodgers' 4-3… (Jayne Kamin-Oncea / U.S.…)

It was evident in the third inning that Clayton Kershaw, at least early on, was not entirely on his game when he served up four consecutive balls and walked the opposing pitcher, Joe Saunders.

But Kershaw then settled down and turned in a gem Friday night, throwing seven scoreless innings against the Arizona Diamondbacks and striking out 11 batters.

Kershaw left with a 4-0 lead, which Dodgers relievers Matt Guerrier and Vicente Padilla nearly squandered.

But the Dodgers held on to edge the Diamondbacks, 4-3, in the opener of their three-game series at Dodger Stadium, handing Arizona its fifth consecutive loss.

Despite his early wobbly control, the 23-year-old Kershaw (5-3) gave up only three hits in front of an announced crowd of 35,056. And it was the sixth time in his career that the left-hander had struck out 11 batters or more in a game.

"It took him a while to get the ball down," Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly said of Kershaw, but that "as the game went on he got better. His stuff was unbelievable tonight."

Kershaw also retired the last 14 Diamondbacks he faced, and he dropped his earned-run average to 2.75.

Kershaw said he was fortunate to get out of his early jams, then "after that I felt all right."

"The pitches were working and they were swinging at balls in the dirt," Kershaw said. "When you get in a groove you just start throwing off-speed pitches for strikes.

"It worked out."

His effort was nearly wasted by the bullpen.

Guerrier gave up a run-scoring single to Arizona's Xavier Nady in the eighth inning. Padilla, who has taken over as the Dodgers' closer for injured Jonathan Broxton, then gave up a two-run single to pinch-hitter Miguel Montero in the ninth.

Padilla struck out another pinch-hitter, Russell

Branyan, but walked Chris Young, prompting Mattingly to pull Padilla and bring in Kenley Jansen. Jansen struck out Melvin Mora to seal the win.

The four Dodgers pitchers struck out 15 hitters.

As for Padilla's rough outing, Mattingly said he was unconcerned.

"Once there's a 'W' on the board, you walk away," Mattingly said. "You trust the guys at the end."

Still, Padilla threw 32 pitches, so it's doubtful he would be used again in Saturday's game, Mattingly said.

Saunders, the former Angel, is still looking for his first win of the season; he's 0-5 with a 5.48 ERA.

Through the first four innings the left-hander corralled the Dodgers, who landed in Los Angeles about 1:30 a.m. Friday after their flight from Pittsburgh.

But in the fifth inning, Rod Barajas hit a towering home run into the left-field pavilion, the catcher's seventh of the season, tying Matt Kemp for the team lead.

The Dodgers scored again in the sixth inning when Jamey Carroll and Aaron Miles singled and Kemp drove in Carroll with a double off the wall.

In the seventh inning, Carroll walked with two out and came around to score after Arizona shortstop Stephen Drew fielded Miles' grounder and threw wildly past second base. Miles then scored on an infield single by Andre Ethier, his 36th consecutive game of reaching base safely.

Twice Kershaw found himself in trouble in the early innings, and twice he wiggled off the hook.

Young doubled to lead off the game and Mora hit a pop fly to shallow right field that Miles and James Loney chased down the line. But the pair collided, the ball bounced free and Mora had a double as well, moving Young to third base.

But Kershaw struck out Nady and Drew, then got Justin Upton to pop out.

In the third inning, after Saunders walked, Young hit another pop fly next to the right-field line for a single. One out later Nady walked to load the bases. But again Kershaw struck out Drew and got Upton to fly out.

james.peltz@latimes.com

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