Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw pitches during the first inning against… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)
Now if only the Dodgers could pitch Clayton Kershaw every day.
As it is, they are plenty thankful they can start him every five games. He is the closest thing to a lock they could imagine.
He was all they hoped for and more on Tuesday, holding the Nationals to five hits in a 2-0 Dodgers’ victory before a sellout Dodger Stadium crowd of 51,729.
He came within one out of throwing his second shutout of the season. When he gave up a single to Adam LaRoche on his 132nd pitch in the ninth, Don Mattingly called on Kenley Jansen to get the final out.
That would be Jansen, who has apparently taken over the closer role from struggling Brandon League. It was Jansen’s second save.
The night, though, belonged to Kershaw (4-2). He pitched out of a first-inning jam, and dominated the rest of the way. He retired 25 of his last 28 batters faced, including a stretch of six consecutive strikeouts.
The only time he was in serious trouble was the first when he was still trying to find his groove, the Nationals loading the bases with two outs on a pair of singles and a walk.
But Kershaw struck out Tyler Moore for the first of his six consecutive strikeouts. Domination pretty much ruled the rest of the night.
Kershaw had to be that effective because the Dodgers weren’t doing much better with Dan Haren.
Haren entered the game with a 5.17 ERA, but the only time the Dodgers got to him came in the third inning. Haren started his trouble by hitting Kershaw with a pitch lead off the inning.
One out later, Matt Kemp, who batted second for the first time in three years, extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a basehit. A Haren wild pitch advanced the runners, which proved costly when Andre Ethier singled in both.
Haren having trouble with Ethier wasn’t exactly a new development. Ethier is 21 for 48 (.438) lifetime against Haren, with six doubles, two home runs and nine RBI.
Ethier’s single in the third was the Dodgers’ last hit of the night. The last 16 consecutive Dodgers were retired in order.
Kershaw finished with 11 strikeouts and one walk.