It has gotten to a point where Clayton Kershaw is so good we look at a nine-inning performance and say "only five strikeouts?" But that was all Kershaw needed, allowing one run on six hits for his fifth complete game of the season in a 4-1 Dodgers win over the Padres.
Kershaw (17-5) is the first Dodger to win 17 games since Chan Ho Park, who won 18 games in 2000. With his five strikeouts, Kershaw pushed his National League leading total to 212, which tied his career high, set last year.
Kershaw allowed 30 foul balls and got just nine swinging strikes on the night, but he got a lot of help from his friends early, as the Dodgers turned three double plays. The final one, in the fifth inning, was a great play by James Loney on a sacrifice bunt attempt by pitcher Mat Latos, which turned into the all too rare 3-6-4 double play. But Loney didn't limit his exploits to the field.
At the plate Loney carried a big stick, continuing his improbable nine-day hot streak. Loney crushed a fastball from Latos in the third inning, hitting it into the right field pavilion for a two-run home run and a 3-0 Dodger lead. In the fifth inning, Loney hit one off Latos to nearly the same spot but this one was off the wall for a double.
Since he warmed up in the bullpen in Colorado, Loney has an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has six multi-hit games and is hitting .514/.541/1.000 with five doubles and four home runs. Loney has driven in a run in six straight games, the longest streak by any Dodger this season.
Former Dodger Orlando Hudson, who has one career home run against Kershaw, just missed hitting one out in the top of the fourth inning, doubling high off the wall in left center field to lead off the inning. After a ground out and infield pop out, it looked like Hudson would be stranded, but Nick Hundley erased that thought with a double down the left field line, plating Hudson and snapping Kershaw's scoreless streak at 17 innings.
Matt Kemp stole his 35th base of the season in the first inning, which tied his career high, set in 2008.
Manager Don Mattingly shuffled his starting rotation a bit, moving Chad Billingsley's next start to Friday and Nathan Eovaldi's final start to Saturday, both in Atlanta, per Ken Gurnick and AJ Cassavell of MLB.com. The Dodgers will call up someone from the minors to start Thursday in Pittsburgh, which just happens to be September 1, the first day rosters expand. The leading candidate appears to be Dana Eveland, as he was on track to start tonight for Triple A Albuquerque but Francisco Felix started instead. Eveland is not listed as one of the Isotopes' probable starters in any of their next four games either.
Hiroki Kuroda pitches for the Dodgers Tuesday night, facing Tim Stauffer of the Padres.
WP - Clayton Kershaw (17-5): 9 IP, 6 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 5 strikeouts
LP - Mat Latos (6-13): 6 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts