Clayton Kershaw gave up one run on three hits over seven innings against… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
As the possibility of adding Cliff Lee turned from remote to virtually nonexistent Saturday, Clayton Kershaw offered a reminder that the Dodgers already have an ace.
Kershaw was as breathtaking in the Dodgers' 3-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs as he often was late last season, when he won the National League Cy Young Award.
Matt Kemp's fortunate two-run home run in the fourth inning would have been enough to lift the Dodgers to their second consecutive win, as Kershaw held the Cubs to a run and three hits over seven innings at Dodger Stadium.
The victory kept the Dodgers a half-game behind the first-place San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Kershaw (9-6) is once again looking like the pitcher who posted a 1.22 earned-run average over his final 15 starts in his breakthrough 2011 season.
"He's definitely pounding the zone and throwing strikes," Kemp said. "That's the Kershaw we know. He's throwing some nasty curveballs and nasty sliders."
The last time he took the mound before Saturday, Kershaw pitched a five-hit shutout in San Francisco last Sunday.
He had a rough outing in St. Louis on July 24, when he was charged with eight runs in 52/3 innings. But in his two starts before his Midwest meltdown, he gave up a total of two runs in 14 innings.
Kershaw had no interest in comparing his current form to last year's.
"I didn't know I was trying to regain anything," he said. "I'm not trying to repeat something that I did last year."
The only run charged to Kershaw on Saturday came in the top of the fourth inning, when Alfonso Soriano doubled in Darwin Barney.
The Dodgers immediately reversed the 1-0 deficit with the aid of Cubs center fielder Joe Mather.
After Mark Ellis singled to lead off the bottom of the fourth, Kemp hit a fly ball deep to right-center field. Mather leaped for the ball, which hit his glove and went over the fence for a home run, Kemp's 16th this season.
"I think I got a little help," Kemp said.
The Dodgers got an insurance run to extend the lead to 3-1 in the eighth inning, when Cubs shortstop Starlin Castro was charged with an error attempting to field a sharply hit grounder by Hanley Ramirez. The gaffe allowed Shane Victorino to score.
Closer Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth to earn his 21st save. Jansen hasn't allowed a run in his last eight appearances.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers appeared to be no closer to trading for Lee, whom they claimed on waivers Friday. This wasn't a surprise, as Phillies General Manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had told reporters in Philadelphia on Friday that the 2008 Cy Young winner "is not going anywhere."
The 48-hour window for the Dodgers to work out a trade for Lee will close Sunday.
If Lee isn't traded, he will finish the season with the Phillies, who could owe him as much as $102.5 million over the next four seasons.
The Phillies could waive Lee again, but are highly unlikely to do so if they aren't willing to let the Dodgers take him and assume the remainder of his contract at this stage. If the Phillies place Lee on waivers a second time, the move would be irrevocable.