Rust? What rust? Clayton Kershaw was magnificent on Friday night, leading the Dodgers to a 8-0 win over the Rockies in the opening game of a three-game weekend series at Dodger Stadium.
The Dodgers kept pace with the Cardinals, remaining three games back of St. Louis with five games left in the season. The Dodgers' magic number is nine, meaning the earliest they could clinch the second wild card is Wednesday. Their elimination number is three, meaning the earliest they could be eliminated is Sunday.
Just five days after walking a season-high five batters in Cincinnati, in his first start in 12 days due to a right hip impingement, Kershaw showed no signs of wear and tear on Friday, as he struck out 10 in eight scoreless innings.
Kershaw's ERA is currently 2.581, which leads the National Leauge. It is still lower than what second place man R.A. Dickey's ERA would be if Dickey pitches a nine-inning shutout in his final start of the season.
Kershaw has 221 strikeouts on the season, one behind Dickey for the NL lead.
And he was backed by a suddenly effective Dodgers offense, which has scored eight or more runs in three consecutive games for the first time since July 8-14, 2007.
Shane Victorino, who didn't start in four of the last six games with a wrist injury and who has been having trouble swinging from the right side, was back in the lineup on Friday against southpaw Jeff Francis. Victorino promptly hit a three-run home run in the second inning to give the Dodgers a 5-0 lead. Victorino also singled against Francis in his first at-bats against a left-hander since Sept. 20, and is hitting .310/.379/.506 against southpaws this season.
Andre Ethier, hitting .214/.269/.319 against left-handers coming into tonight and just .159/.205/.232 (22 for 138) since June 1, had two hits against Francis, including a double. Ethier had three hits in total on the night, and scored three runs.
A.J. Ellis had two more hits, including an RBI double in the eighth inning. Ellis has driven in a run in his last four games, and is hitting .400 (6-for-15) during that span, with three doubles.
Bobby Abreu even got into act, hitting a pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning, a two-run shot into right field, the 21st home run hit into the loge level in Dodger Stadium history. It was the first pinch-hit home run of Abreu's career.
Home Runs: Shane Victorino (11), Bobby Abreu (3)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (13-9): 8 IP, 5 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts
LP - Jeff Francis (5-7): 4 IP, 6 hits, 5 runs, 1 walk, 3 strikeouts