LOS ANGELES -- Struggling to score runs and win games, the last thing the D-backs needed was to have to face Clayton Kershaw.
Yet that's exactly who they had to face Monday night at Dodger Stadium, and the left-hander tossed seven shutout innings as the Dodgers defeated the D-backs, 3-1.
The loss was the third in a row for the slumping D-backs, who have lost 10 of their last 12 games and trail the first-place Dodgers by 9 1/2 games in the National League West.
"Pretty high," D-backs shortstop Willie Bloomquist said when asked about the frustration level in the clubhouse. "Obviously, it's no fun going out and losing. We expect to be much better than where we're at right now. It starts with everyone as individuals, and I point the finger at myself. I've got to be better and I hope there's other guys who feel the same way, and I'm sure there are. We're going to keep grinding. We've never been a team that's been willing to fold in our tents and cash in early. We're not going to do that."
The D-backs did show a little fight as they renewed a brushback battle with Kershaw, who improved to 3-1.
Last season the two teams exchanged heated words after Kershaw plunked Gerardo Parra in retaliation for Parra taking a long time to round the bases on a home run the night before. This was the first time Kershaw faced Arizona since, and Kennedy seemed to send a message in Kershaw's first at-bat.
Kennedy's first pitch came in on Kershaw, backing him off the plate, and one strike later, Kennedy uncorked a fastball that went behind the left-hander.
"We're just trying to go in on him," Arizona catcher Miguel Montero said. "We know he's got a long swing, he's got a pretty good swing. We just tried to go in on him and unfortunately he just ... I don't know, threw it too far in and he thought we were trying to hit him."
Kershaw was not buying it.
"He's got pretty good command," Kershaw said. "Those were a little iffy there. Whatever. He missed. The part of it I don't understand, with all that stuff last year, I know it's old-school baseball for them or Gibby-style, whatever they call it. But I don't understand it.
"He throws three in there, two up and in and one at my shins and the catcher is saying he's just missing his spots? It's pretty obvious what they're doing. I don't understand it. The manager there is old school, but old school you let it go. If that's how they want to do it, in my opinion there's no place for it."
Kershaw repaid the favor in Kennedy's next at-bat, throwing a pitch inside that spun Kennedy around. Home-plate umpire Marvin Hudson quickly issued warnings to both benches, and there were no further incidents.
"The ball was pretty close," Kennedy said of the ball that nearly hit him. "I saw it at the last second and I just kind of held my breath. I don't know how it missed me."
The teams play 17 more times this year.
"It is what it is," Bloomquist said. "[Kershaw] obviously didn't like it so he came back at us. Take it for what it's worth, it's a long season. Baseball has a way of taking care of itself. The game within the game will take care of it. So if it happens again, then it will happen again. Like I said, it's a long season."
The Dodgers grabbed a 1-0 lead in the first when Dee Gordon led off with a single and quickly advanced to third when Kennedy fired a pickoff attempt down the right-field line.
Mark Ellis followed with a grounder to second that scored Gordon.
The Dodgers gave Kershaw two more runs to work with in the sixth.
Andre Ethier got the scoring started with one out in the frame when he homered to right, and later in the inning Adam Kennedy's sacrifice fly scored A.J. Ellis to put the Dodgers up, 3-0.
The D-backs got on the board in the eighth when Aaron Hill homered off reliever Josh Lindblom.
Kennedy (3-3) lost his third straight start. The right-hander, who won 21 games last year, allowed three runs (two earned) on six hits over six innings.
"I think he pitched very well," D-backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "It's the best he's thrown the ball. Ian was outstanding."
The loss to a division foe was the first for Kennedy in his last 18 starts against them, dropping him to 12-1 against them.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.