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Kershaw allows six hits in complete game

SAN DIEGO -- Clayton Kershaw was mentioned in the same sentence as Randy Johnson and Roger Clemens, while Rubby De La Rosa was mentioned in the same sentence as Tommy John.

Such were the ultimate highs and depressing lows for the Dodgers Monday night, when the likelihood of season-ending Tommy John elbow surgery for the 22-year-old De La Rosa whipsawed the clubhouse mood after yet another uplifting performance from the 23-year-old Kershaw, their Cy Young candidate.

Kershaw again demonstrated that you can be surrounded by a losing team and win anyway. He ran his streak of victories to five on Monday, notching his fourth complete game as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 6-2, with Matt Kemp contributing a triple, double, one RBI and two runs.

Kershaw, now 13-4, is tied with Roy Halladay and Ian Kennedy for the National League lead in wins, matching his career high. Kershaw projects to make 10 more starts this year in a bid to become the Dodgers' first 20-game winner since Ramon Martinez in 1990.

Manager Don Mattingly, yet to hear the grim news on De La Rosa, waxed eloquently on why Kershaw is as good as he is. The four-pitch repertoire, the confidence to use any of them in any count, the tenacity to pitch deep into games and the ability to adjust. Mattingly was asked to compare Kershaw to the best pitchers he faced and he had trouble finding any better.

"I don't know if those guys were quite like this," he said. "Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, but they had a different mix, mostly power. Maybe Mike Mussina used the breaking ball. Randy was all power early, then used the slider later. Rocket, as he got older, used the split a lot more and that made you wait, it made you think. But I can't picture too many guys like Kersh."

This wasn't a typical performance for the league's strikeout leader, as only four Padres fanned, bringing his total to 177 as he attempts to be the Dodgers' first NL strikeout champ since Hideo Nomo in 1995. He lowered his ERA to 2.67, seventh in the league, inducing 14 ground-ball outs. He had only two innings without a baserunner and allowed the leadoff hitter to reach base in four frames.

"My slider was more down than in and I got a lot of ground balls," said Kershaw. "It happens sometimes, you don't have strikeout stuff, you have ground-ball stuff. They were aggressive, swinging early in the count, and I paid for it some but also got quick outs."

Not that Kershaw abandoned his overpowering tactics.

"I hate the term pitch to contact," he said. "I'm not trying to let them hit it."

Kershaw hadn't allowed a first-inning run since May 8, but he did in this game. He walked the first batter he faced, Cameron Maybin, on four pitches. Maybin stole second and two outs later scored on a line-drive single just over the glove of shortstop Dee Gordon by Giants castoff Jesus Guzman, who came into the game batting .381 off left-handed pitching.

"Four pitches, that was pretty awful," said Kershaw. "I deserved to give up that run. The first at-bat you've got a lot of things to deal with -- nerves, angst. After my first strike, I'm fine. It just took five pitches."

The Dodgers got Kershaw even in the top of the second on singles by Juan Rivera and Rod Barajas, a Cory Luebke wild pitch and a sacrifice fly from James Loney.

The Dodgers took the lead for good in the fourth. Kemp led off with a double. One out later, Kemp took off to steal third and Barajas lined a single to left-center, scoring Kemp easily.

The Dodgers added to the lead in the fifth with Luebke's help. Jamey Carroll led off with a double. Kershaw attempted to bunt him to third and just as the ball was about to roll foul, Luebke picked it up and fired a throw that pulled first baseman Guzman off the bag. Luebke then came 20 feet off the mound to field Gordon's tapper and threw home, but Carroll got there first.

Luebke then wild pitched the runners to second and third and Casey Blake's sacrifice fly scored Kershaw with Gordon taking third. Gordon was doubled off third by Luebke after he snagged Andre Ethier's line drive.

Kershaw gave up a leadoff home run to former teammate Orlando Hudson in the seventh inning that cut the lead to 4-2. Kemp got that run back with an RBI triple to greet reliever Ernesto Frieri in the eighth. Kemp scored on Rivera's sacrifice fly.

"He's good," Luebke said of Kershaw. "I'd like to be able to compete against him, but, you know, he's got electric stuff. He does a good job of battling and he doesn't give in." Comments