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Clayton Kershaw Finishes Strong, All But Clinches Pitching Triple Crown

Clayton Kershaw capped his magnificent 2011 campaign with another win against the San Diego Padres, as the Dodgers won the finale on Sunday at Petco Park, 6-2. Kershaw pitched into the eighth inning and allowed two runs, and all but clinched the National League pitching triple crown with today's win. Not a bad resume for National League Cy Young.

Kershaw's 21st victory tied Ian Kennedy of the Arizona Diamondbacks, who won on Saturday against the Giants. The 21 wins for Kershaw are the most by a Dodger since Orel Hershiser went 23-8 in 1988.

Kershaw struck out six today, giving him 248 on the season, the most by a Dodger since Sandy Koufax struck out 317 in 1966. Justin Verlander leads the majors with 250 strikeouts. In the National League, Kershaw has a 16-strikeout lead on Cliff Lee, who starts for the Phillies on Monday in Atlanta.

Speaking of Lee, with the win today, Kershaw finished with an ERA of 2.28 on the season, tops in the majors. Lee, who has a 2.38 ERA, would need 10 2/3 scoreless innings to beat Kershaw. Roy Halladay pitched six scoreless innings on Sunday to lower his ERA to 2.35, but he won't pitch again this season.

In his final 15 starts of the season, Kershaw went 13-1 with a 1.22 ERA. As Vin Scully said in the ninth inning of Sunday's broadcast, "Clayton Kershaw's season is over, but his numbers linger on."

Kershaw was in danger of allowing a third run, which was on third base when he left the game in favor of Kenley Jansen in the bottom of the eighth inning. But Jansen continued his amazing run, striking out Will Venable and Cameron Maybin to end the threat. Jansen struck out all five Padres he faced in San Diego this weekend.

Jansen is averaging 16.10 strikeouts per nine innings per nine innings this season, which is a major league record.

Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless ninth to close out the win.

Other Triple Crown Update

In the first inning, Kemp doubled to score Jamey Carroll for his 120th RBI of the year. In the third inning, Kemp hit what looked like a routine fly ball to center, but it carried about 400 feet to the warning track in center for an out.

In the sixth inning, Kemp hit a little roller that went under the glove of third baseman Alberto Gonzalez. The play was originally scored an error, though the official scorer will watch a replay after the game to determine how far Kemp was down the line on the play, per Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times.

UPDATE: The official scorer did not change the call, per Tony Jackson of ESPN LA. The error stands, as does the 0-for-1 for Kemp in that at-bat.

Kemp struck out in the seventh inning against Luke Gregerson, then grounded to shortstop in the ninth inning off Andrew Carpenter. The 1-for-5 day for Kemp lowered his batting average to .324 on a day the two ahead of him raised theirs.

Ryan Braun had two hits in three at-bats on Sunday, including a home run, and Jose Reyes had two hits in four at-bats. Here are the updated triple crown stats:

Batting Average Home Runs RBI
Ryan Braun .3327 Matt Kemp 37 Matt Kemp 120
Jose Reyes .3308 Albert Pujols 37 Ryan Howard 115
Matt Kemp .3243 Uggla / Fielder
35 Prince Fielder 114

WP - Clayton Kershaw (21-5): 7 1/3 IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts

LP - Cory Luebke (6-10): 6 IP, 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 4 walks, 6 strikeouts

Box Score