Kershaw shows why he's Dodgers' staff ace
Southpaw nearly blanks opposition for second time in three starts
PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw showed why he's the Dodgers' staff ace Friday night, and Kenley Jansen showed why he might eventually be the closer.
Kershaw took a two-hit shutout into the ninth inning before wobbling and Jansen bailed him out for his second career save as the Dodgers and their pair of exciting 22-year-old arms beat the D-backs, 3-1.
Kershaw is 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA. He is 3-0 against Arizona this year, allowing three runs in 19 innings, and he's 9-2 against the National League West. The last Dodgers left-hander with at least 13 wins was Kazuhisa Ishii, who went 13-8 in 2004.
Kershaw also surpassed the 200-inning mark and has hurled a club-high 204 1/3. He has 212 strikeouts (second in the NL), the most for any Dodgers starter since Chan Ho Park had 218 in 2001, and the most for a Dodgers left-hander since Fernando Valenzuela had 242 in 1986.
"It's cool," Kershaw said. "It's definitely something of a benchmark to get to every year."
Especially with this being the first year the staff let him get near it. In his two previous seasons, Kershaw had a 100-pitch limit per start. But as manager Joe Torre said, they took "the governor" off this spring.
Actually, Torre planned to put the governor back on for this start, hoping to keep the lefty at 90 pitches and bring him back Wednesday against Colorado, but Kershaw "made it impossible to do anything but" send him back out in the ninth inning with a shutout going.
"Always, in the back of my mind, I know it was for my own good," Kershaw said. "Obviously, they want what's best for me. It was tough for me at times, but they were trying to protect me and you can't fault them for that."
Kershaw struck out nine without a walk. Two starts earlier, he threw the first complete game and shutout of his career -- also with no walks.
"I'm getting deeper into games because of it," Kershaw said.
Among the theories for his recent efficiency is the advancement of his slider and changeup, although Kershaw said it's simply the result of experience.
Kershaw also showed his competitiveness, rebounding from a four-inning, four-run outing five days earlier.
"Typical Clayton," said catcher A.J. Ellis. "Tough outing, and the next one he's dominating. It's mental toughness. He's stronger than any player, not just pitcher, I've ever been around."
"We decided before the game that we were going to [take pitches] -- sometimes if he's wild, it takes him a while to get settled in," said Arizona manager Kirk Gibson. "We took for the first time through the lineup. He had like 30 pitches the first time through the lineup, and like 24 were for strikes. We knew he was on. Just the whole game, he managed through the lineup very well. He had great stuff. Very sneaky. He was throwing hard, but it was even harder to pick up."
Meanwhile, Jansen got the call after Kershaw started the ninth by allowing a single to Chris Young and an RBI double to former teammate Tony Abreu. Hong-Chih Kuo saved Thursday night's game and usually doesn't pitch in back-to-back games, while Jonathan Broxton has been in a second-half slump and the Dodgers want to see just how good Jansen really is.
"Adrian Gonzalez the other night says, 'How does this guy even have an ERA?'" Ellis said. "He's doing something, hiding the ball, something's deceptive. He has no fear on the mound. And he thinks the game, the benefit of being a former catcher. He throws hard, but to spots, and that's a good combination."
While Kershaw will get a break when the season ends next weekend, the season won't end for Jansen. He will report immediately to the Arizona Instructional League to catch up on pitching fundamentals (like holding on runners) missed while spending his first five professional seasons as a catcher that couldn't hit.
Offensively, the Dodgers got contributions from several of the kids Torre let play. Ellis, out to prove he fits into the catching picture, drew a walk from D-backs starter Barry Enright -- who hurled eight good innings of his own -- leading off the third inning. Two outs later, former Arizona player Trent Oeltjen tripled him home. Oeltjen also had a drag-bunt single.
In the fourth inning, Andre Ethier led off with a triple.
"Triple speed," bragged Ethier, who looked like he needed oxygen when he reached third base. "I'm good for one a year."
Jay Gibbons brought Ethier home with a sacrifice fly and the Dodgers got an insurance run in the ninth inning when Reed Johnson, inserted as Gibbons' defensive replacement, homered.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.