Clayton Kershaw did his thing, Matt Kemp did his thing, and they got a little help from friends James Loney and Andre Ethier as the Dodgers beat the Astros 5-1 Saturday night for their third straight victory. The Dodgers are now 12-3.
Kershaw sounded frustrated after his last start on Sunday, his third straight no-decision, but more about his performance than the lack of individual wins, saying, "Wins will come with pitching better, and getting deeper into games and doing some of those things that right now aren't coming so easily."
Saturday in Houston, those things appeared to come to Kershaw a little easier.
Kershaw allowed just three hits and one unintentional walk in his seven scoreless innings, and picked up his first win of the season. He struck out nine on the night, and lowered his ERA on the season to just 1.61. At 105 pitches and with a 3-0 lead, Kershaw even batted for himself in the eighth inning, though a prolonged inning and a few extra Dodgers runs ensured Kershaw didn't go back out on the mound.
Before tonight, Kershaw went three starts without a win for the first time since last June. Kershaw followed up last year's mini-drought by going 15-2 with a 1.54 ERA over his final 18 starts. We'll see what Kershaw has in store for us this year.
Loney became just the fourth Dodger to hit a home run this season when he launched a Kyle Weiland pitch into the seats in right field in the top of the second inning. Loney began this season 0-for-16 and 1-for-20 but in his last eight games has hit .320/.433/.600, including four doubles and a home run in his last seven starts.
Kemp struck out twice in his first two trips to the plate, but with two outs and a runner on third base in a 1-0 game in the top of the sixth inning the Astros decided to pitch to Kemp and Weiland paid the price. For the first time all season, Kemp hit a home run to the left side of center field, though just barely. Kemp crushed the first pitch an estimated 423 feet into the section of seats that hang over the field just to the left of Tal's Hill.
Kemp now has nine home runs, the most ever by a Dodger through 15 games.
In MLB history, Alex Rodriguez (2007) and Mike Schmidt (1976) both hit 12 home runs through 15 games for the most ever, while Willie Mays (1964), Willie Stargell (1971), Luis Gonzalez (2001), and Albert Pujols (2006) each had 10. Kemp is on the next tier, tied with 10 others with nine home runs through 15 games.
Weiland pitched the best game of his young career, allowing three runs in seven innings while striking out six, but got hung with his third loss in three starts this year. He is 0-6 with a 7.78 ERA in eight MLB starts.
Dee Gordon returned to the starting lineup after taking Friday off and had a double and two infield singles on the night, scoring two runs.
Ethier joined the party in the top of the eighth, delivering a two-run single to give him 21 RBI on the season, second most in the majors behind Kemp's 22. Kemp and Ethier tied the record for most RBI by teammates through 15 games per the Elias Sports Bureau, equaling Alex Rodriguez (30) and Bobby Abreu (13) of the 2007 New York Yankees.
Those two eight-inning runs gave the Dodgers a bigger cushion that made the decision to pull Kershaw that much easier. Mike MacDougal, who hadn't pitched since last Saturday, started the eighth inning but was terrible. MacDougal walked two and allowed a hit, leaving with one out and the bases loaded. MacDougal has walked five batters in 3 2/3 innings so far this season.
Kenley Jansen had to come in to restore order and pitching his fourth game in five nights, Jansen walked his first batter for a run but retired Carlos Lee and Jed Lowrie to end the threat. Jansen leads the major leagues with 10 games pitched.
Scott Elbert hasn't pitched since April 13, but he watched from the bench as Jamey Wright pitched a scoreless ninth to end the game.
The Dodgers have their fourth chance at a sweep in their fifth series of the year during brunch on Sunday, with Chad Billingsley on the mound. Billingsley is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA and three quality starts in three tries so far this season and by all accounts has a healthy groin after some concerns earlier in the week. Fellow three-year, mid-$30 million contract signer Wandy Rodriguez (he signed for $34 million; Billingsley got $35 million) starts for the Astros in the series finale.
Home Runs: James Loney (1), Matt Kemp (9)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (1-0): 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks (1 intentional), 9 strikeouts
LP - Kyle Weiland (0-3): 7 IP, 6 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts