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Dodgers 8, Rays 2: Clayton Kershaw gets plenty of support to complete sweep

After scoring six total runs in his previous three starts, the Dodgers exploded for eight runs on Sunday for Clayton Kershaw. The Dodgers' fifth straight win made them 37-8 in their last 45 games.

Stephen Dunn

Clayton Kershaw continued to pitch like Clayton Kershaw and finally got some run support, as the Dodgers completed their sweep of the Rays with an 8-2 romp on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers are now a season-high 7½ games up in the National League West.

Kershaw allowed just three hits and two runs, one earned in eight innings, the 10th time in 25 starts he has lasted that long. Kershaw struck out eight, walked two and lowered his MLB-best ERA to 1.88.

After getting one total run of support in his last two starts, both Dodgers losses, Kershaw took matters into his own hand in the second inning. With runners on second and third base and two outs, Kershaw singled to right field for a quick 2-0 lead.

Not only did the hit snap an 0-for-24 skid at the plate for Kershaw, but it also gave him a career-high six runs batted in on the season.

But Kershaw wasn't the only one providing offense on Sunday. After scoring two or fewer runs in 13 of his previous 24 starts, the Dodgers put plenty of runs of on Sunday night. It was a problem addressed before the game by manager Don Mattingly, who said he has seen aces over the years get plagued by poor run support, including his former Yankees teammate Ron Guidry.

"I don't know what it is. We need to change it, that's for sure. That's the one thing we do need to get better at. I do think you're going to get the other guy's best effort when Kershaw is going to pitch," Mattingly said."But that still doesn't keep us from being able to do what we do. We've got to do a better job of putting runs on the board for him."

Kershaw scored in the second inning when Mark Ellis doubled off the wall in left field, narrowly missing a three-run home run.

The Dodgers tacked on another run in the third with a double by Puig followed by a pair of fly balls to advance him to third, then home. The sacrifice fly by A.J. Ellis gave him 26 RBI in his last 30 starts.

A two-run double by Adrian Gonzalez in the fourth inning gave the Dodgers a 6-0 lead, and added to a stellar weekend for the first baseman. Gonzalez, who drove in the tying run in the ninth inning on Friday night and opened the scoring with a two-run home run on Saturday, has at least one RBI in his last six games, matching Hanley Ramirez for the longest such streak by a Dodger this season.

Kershaw took a no-hitter into the fifth inning, but Yunel Escobar led off with a single to left field and advanced to second base on Carl Crawford's fielding error. Two outs later a triple by Sam Fuld just out of the reach of Puig in right field gave the Rays a run to disrupt the shutout.

The run ended a string of 18 consecutive runs scored by the Dodgers in the series, all since they trailed 6-0 on Friday night. But the Dodgers answered back in the sixth inning, when Mark Ellis did not miss with a two-run bomb into the left field pavilion.

Every Dodger starter got a hit, but perhaps the only Dodger who didn't have a good night was Dee Gordon, who made three errors at shortstop. Gordon has started three of the seven games since Ramirez injured his shoulder and is hitting .417 (5-for-12) since his call-up. But he has also made four errors in those three games and has six errors in only 22 games at shortstop this season.

Carlos Marmol pitched a perfect ninth to end the game.

Sunday particulars

Home runs: Mark Ellis (6)

WP - Clayton Kershaw (11-7): 8 IP, 3 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 2 walks, 8 strikeouts

LP - Jeremy Hellickson (10-6): 3 IP, 7 hits, 4 runs, 2 strikeouts