Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is congratulated by shortstop Hanley… (Al Behrman / Associated…)
CINCINNATI -- Clayton Kershaw returned from a right hip injury to pitch five valiant innings and Adrian Gonzalez hit two home runs on Sunday night to help the Dodgers defeat the Cincinnati Reds, 5-3, at Great American Ball Park.
The Dodgers remain three games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second of two National League wild-card playoff spots, but are faced with a new problem: Hanley Ramirez was forced to exit the game after fouling a pitch off his left shin. Ramirez, who singled later in the at-bat in the seventh inning, had to be replaced by pinch-runner Dee Gordon.
Gordon scored that inning on a Mark Ellis double to increase the Dodgers’ lead to 3-1. The Dodgers scored two more runs -- one on a A.J. Ellis bunt and the other on an Andre Ethier single -- to go up, 5-1.
A two-run home run by Denis Phipps closed the gap to 5-3.
The Dodgers built a 2-1 lead on a pair of solo home runs by Gonzalez. The home runs were Gonzalez’s first since his first at-bat as a Dodger. Gonzalez had endured a 25-game homer-less drought.
Kershaw, who was pitching on 12 days’ rest, was pulled from the game for a pinch-hitter in the top of the sixth inning. He departed the game with the score tied, 1-1.
Kershaw didn’t look like himself, as he walked a season-high five batters and allowed 11 Reds to reach base. But he let only one of them score during a third inning which he started by loading the bases before recording a single out.
In the hours leading up to the game, Manager Don Mattingly praised Kershaw’s mental makeup.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anybody quite like him, honestly,” Mattingly said.
The decision to start on Sunday wasn’t made by Kershaw; the call was made by management and the medical staff.
But it was only possible because Kershaw had continued to throw on flat ground at a time when his season appeared to be over.
“He’s not going to quit,” Mattingly said.
The only player Mattingly said was similar was New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter.
Kershaw loaded the bases again in the fourth inning. That prompted a visit to the mound from pitching coach Rick Honeycutt, as well as movement in the Dodgers bullpen. But Kershaw struck out Joey Votto to get out of the jam.
Kershaw pitched one more inning.
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