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Clayton Kershaw leads Dodgers to National League West title

The Dodgers will open the NLDS at home on Friday, Oct. 3.

Jeff Gross

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw struck out 11 in eight strong innings, and was backed by a four-run rally in the sixth inning, giving the Dodgers a 9-1 win over the Giants on Wednesday to clinch the 2014 National League West championship.

Kershaw threw a season-high 117 pitches, the last of which struck out Pablo Sandoval, and walked off the field to extremely loud chants of "M-V-P" from the sellout Dodger Stadium crowd.

"He's had a tremendous year, he's been incredible. He should get a lot of consideration," said manager Don Mattingly. "To me he's the MVP but I don't get a vote."

Kershaw allowed one run, lowering his ERA to 1.77, all but clinching his unprecedented fourth consecutive major league ERA crown. For the moment, he leads the National League with 239 strikeouts.

But for a brief while on Wednesday night, Kershaw was trailing.

The Dodgers couldn't get much of anything going against Hudson, who had allowed four first-inning runs in each of his last two starts. The Dodgers didn't score until the fifth inning, when Kershaw himself drove home the Dodgers' first run with a two-out triple, the first of his career.

The floodgates opened in the sixth inning, starting with a Yasiel Puig home run to give the Dodgers their first lead, at 2-1. One out later Matt Kemp doubled, which knocked Hudson from the game.

Left-handed reliever Javier Lopez intentionally walked Hanley Ramirez to bring up Carl Crawford, as hot as anyone on the team in the last month and hitting .302/.367/.472 in limited duty against southpaws this season.

That number went up with Crawford's two-run double into the right field corner, and he scored on a single by Juan Uribe, giving the Dodgers a 5-1 advantage.

Uribe drove home two more insurance runs in the four-run eighth inning, putting the game far out of reach.

★★★

With every Kershaw start, there is the unrealistic expectation of a potential no-hitter, so it's always an event when the opponent notches its first base hit. For the Giants, that came in the third inning with a slow ground ball by Joaquin Arias to Hanley Ramirez in the hole at shortstop. Any chance at getting Arias ended with a slight hesitation by Ramirez, giving San Francisco its first runner on base.

Gregor Blanco followed with a sure single to left and, with the pitcher Hudson batting, both runners moved up on a balk by Kershaw. Hudson was retired on a terrific behind-the-back stab by Kershaw to temporarily hold the Giants at bay, but then a Hunter Pence ground ball to third scored Arias, who beat the throw home by Juan Uribe for a 1-0 Giants lead.

Curiously, Blanco didn't advance to third base on the slow ground ball, which meant he couldn't score when Joe Panik followed with a single to left. Kershaw induced a 5-4-3 double play from Buster Posey to end the inning without any further damage.

Blanco again, down 5-1 in the seventh inning against Kershaw, tried to advance to third base on a single by Matt Duffy, only to be erased at third on a great throw from center field by Puig, his National League-best 14th outfield assist.

"Yasiel made an incredible play at third base," said Mattingly. "It's just one of those plays that nobody makes."

The Dodgers will open the NLDS at home on Friday, Oct. 3.

Thursday particulars

Home run: Yasiel Puig (16)

WP - Clayton Kershaw (21-3): 8 IP, 8 hits, 1 run, 11 strikeouts

LP - Tim Hudson (9-13): 5⅓ IP, 5 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts