The return of Clayton Kershaw went about as smooth as could have been expected as the Dodgers cruised to an 8-3 victory over the Nationals on Tuesday night in Washington.
Okay, perhaps "cruised" isn't the correct word choice, as Chris Perez turned an 8-0 lead into the eighth into an actual save situation. Perez, with his two days off before Tuesday one of the rare Dodgers relievers actually rested, threw 34 pitches in allowing three hits, three walks and three runs. He left with the bases loaded and two outs, and Jamey Wright got the final out to end the frame.
But before that, Kershaw was cruising. In his first start in over six weeks, Kershaw needed just 89 pitches to get through his seven scoreless innings. He struck out nine and walked none, and allowed nine hits.
Since the start of 2011, Kershaw has 22 starts of at least seven innings without giving up a run, the most in baseball during that span.
The Nationals had their best shot at scoring in the sixth inning, as each of the first three batters singled. But the first of those batters, Anthony Rendon, was promptly picked off first base, nipping that rally in the bud. The times that Washington was able to threaten Kershaw he was at his best, holding the Nationals to 0-for-5 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position.
With those two runners on in the sixth inning, Kershaw struck out Scott Hairston and Ian Desmond to end the inning. A.J. Ellis, rehabbing from left knee surgery in Arizona through the weekend, watched from afar:
Not awkward when screaming at TV at @BWWings in Arizona as Kershaw strikes out 2 guys to end 6th inning. #sorryimnotsorry— AJ Ellis (@AJEllis17) May 7, 2014
The Dodgers were held scoreless through the first 14 innings of the series but found a most creative way to plate three runs in the sixth. Clayton Kershaw reached on a ball bobbled by pitcher Blake Treinen, Dee Gordon reached on a ball bobbled by first baseman Andy LaRoche, ruled a hit, then Carl Craword hit a dribbler barely up the first base line and beat it out for a hit.
Those three balls traveled a total of maybe 200 feet, but it loaded the bases for the Dodgers with nobody out, and drove Treinen from the game in an impressive first major league start. Hanley Ramirez followed with a traditional single to right field to break the scoreless tie. Andre Ethier followed one out later with a ground ball to second base hit too slowly for a double play, making the score 2-0. Juan Uribe, robbed in his previous at-bat by a leaping grab of a line drive by third baseman Anthony Rendon, lofted a broken-bat bloop that dropped in front of Scott Hairston in left field for a 3-0 lead.
The Dodgers added a run in the seventh, an inning that began with catcher Drew Butera fouling a ball that bounced and hit him in the face, somewhere near the eye. Butera on the next pitch was hit on the wrist. But in the eighth inning, it was Butera doing the hurting, hitting a three-run shot into the seats in left for his second home run of the year.
Asked by Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA after the game what he was looking for in hitting the home run, Butera quipped, "I don't know, I kind of blacked out."
Kenley Jansen, pitching for the first time in five days, retired the side in order in the ninth inning, including a strikeout, to close out the game.
Kershaw's pickoff was his 43rd since the start of 2009, most in baseball during that span. Kershaw has been first or second in the majors in pickoffs every year during that span except for 2009, when he finished third.
Ethier was 2-for-5, and his fielder's choice in the sixth was his fifth different RBI out this season (four ground balls and a sacrifice fly), most on the team. The Dodgers have 17 RBI outs as a team.
Carl Crawford was 3-for-5 with a run scored on Tuesday, and is 8-for-13 (.615) in his last four games.
Dodgers catchers in their last 16 games have hit a combined .264/.344/.434 with two home runs, a triple, a double and six walks.
The Dodgers end their nine-game road trip with a morning game on getaway day, the third 10 a.m. PT start on the trip. Dan Haren gets the call for the Dodgers, with Stephen Strasburg toeing the rubber for the Nationals.
Home runs: Hanley Ramirez (4), Drew Butera (2)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (2-0): 7 IP, 9 hits, 9 strikeouts
LP - Blake Treinen (0-1): 5+ IP, 7 hits, 3 runs (2 earned), 2 strikeouts