Clayton Kershaw leads Dodgers back into first place

Lisa Blumenfeld

Kershaw struck out 13 and extended his streak to 28 straight scoreless innings, the longest streak by a Dodger in 26 years.

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers offense came alive to the point of excess on Sunday, backing another brilliant Clayton Kershaw performance in a 6-0 win over the Cardinals to capture the four-game series. Coupled with the Giants' loss to the Reds, the Dodgers (47-37, .560) pulled into a virtual tie with San Francisco (46-36, .561) for first place in the National League West.

It took the Dodgers exactly three weeks to erase a 9½-game deficit, their largest of the season.

Kershaw pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing five hits and two walks while striking out 13. He extended his scoreless streak to a career-best 28 consecutive innings, the longest streak by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser's MLB-record 59 straight scoreless innings in 1988.

The Cardinals actually had their chances against Kershaw, putting runners in scoring position in four different innings but as a team were 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position against the Dodgers ace.

"The thing with Clayton is that we've been seeing this for a while," manager Don Mattingly said. "Every year there have been numerous games where he has gone out and done this. It's hard to feel like this is so much different than the others. It seems the same. "

The Dodgers' rally in the fourth inning started with the most unlikely of things, a bunt single to a vacant third base against a shifted infield defense by Adrian Gonzalez to break up Shelby Miller's no-hit bit. Actually, the rally started a batter earlier when a slumping Yasiel Puig battled back from an 0-2 count to draw a leadoff walk.

With Puig on second and Gonzalez at first, Matt Kemp lined a more traditional single, to center to score Puig, with an alert Gonzalez advancing to third base on the play. That hustle paid off two batters later when Juan Uribe flew out to center field for a sacrifice fly and a 2-0 lead.

Most of the same cast came through again in the fifth inning, with Puig turning a single to left into a hustle double, then scoring on a base hit by Gonzalez. Kemp followed with a double, then Andre Ethier ended the competitive phase of the contest with a three-run blast into the right field pavilion, his first home run since May 27.

The run support was more than enough for Kershaw, who won his sixth straight start for the first time of his career and completed the best month of his seven-year career to date.

About the only negative for Kershaw on Sunday was that he actually walked two batters, matching his total for his previous five starts.

The Dodgers allowed four runs in four games against the reigning National League pennant winners.

"The rotation sets the tone for the whole team," Kershaw said. "If your starters are going deep into games, it sets up the bullpen to do their jobs, and they've been doing a good job. From there if you're having quick innings and getting guys off the field quick they will score runs for you. It's a domino effect."

Kershaw in June was ridiculous. He made six starts, and won them all. He allowed all of four runs on 26 hits, with four walks and 61 strikeouts in 44 innings.

Pitcher of the months.

Notes

Kershaw struck out six before he walked a batter on Sunday, giving him at the time 100 strikeouts with nine walks, the fewest walks in a season by a Dodgers pitcher since at least 1914 at the time of their 100th strikeout. The previous record was Sandy Koufax, with 19 walks at the time of his 100th strikeout in 1995.

Sunday was Kershaw's second double-digit strikeout game of the season and 24th of his career, the latter tying him with Hideo Nomo for sixth-most by a Dodger. Koufax holds the franchise mark with 97 games of 10 or more strikeouts.

Among pitchers with at least 60 strikeouts in a month, Kershaw's four walks in June are the second-fewest, behind only Curt Schilling (62 strikeouts, two walks in May 2002).

The home run by Ethier in the fifth inning snapped a string of 96 plate appearances and 25 games without a long ball.

Up next

The Dodgers welcome the Indians to town for an interleague matchup beginning Monday night. Dan Haren starts the opener of the three-game series for the Dodgers, while Corey Kluber starts for Cleveland.

Sunday particulars

Home run: Andre Ethier (4)

WP - Clayton Kershaw (9-2): 7 IP, 5 hits, 2 walks, 13 strikeouts

LP - Shelby Miller (7-7): 5 IP, 7 hits, 6 runs, 3 walks, 4 strikeouts

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