Clayton Kershaw delivered exactly what the Dodgers needed, both on the mound and at the plate, ending the 11-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Giants on Tuesday night at AT&T Park.
Coupled with the Diamondbacks’ loss at home to the Rockies, the Dodgers lead over Arizona in the National League West is now back to 10 games with just 17 left to play. The Dodgers’ magic number to clinch the division is now down to eight.
With the win on Tuesday — their 93rd of the season — the Dodgers clinched a playoff spot, ensuring at least a wild card berth. The explanation:
So not only did the #Dodgers halt their losing streak, but they also clinched a playoff spot, according to MLB. Here's why: pic.twitter.com/uIs0GlsJxP— Joshua Thornton (@JoshuaThornton_) September 13, 2017
Kershaw, who needed 86 pitches to throw just 3⅔ innings in his last time out, didn’t hit that number until two outs in the sixth inning on Tuesday. He allowed two runs — one earned — on eight hits in six innings of work, striking out six with one walk.
It was just the fourth quality start by a Dodgers pitcher in their last 18 games. Kershaw has two of them, representing both Dodgers wins during that stretch.
At the plate Kershaw was active as well, with a walk and a double, and scored the go-ahead run.
Join the club
Kelby Tomlinson entered Tuesday with two career home runs in 509 plate appearances, with both long balls coming in 2015. He went 324 plate appearances without a home run before taking Kershaw deep in the third inning, giving San Francisco a 1-0 lead. He joins a group of nondescript and/or unheralded Giants to hit a home run of Kershaw, along with Cody Ransom, Brett Pill and Ehire Adrianza.
Tomlinson reached base all three times against Kershaw, adding a single and a walk. He was 0-for-14 with a walk and six strikeouts against Kershaw before Tuesday.
What a relief
Kershaw left with a 4-2 lead, and the Giants pulled to within one with a pair of hits and an RBI ground out against Ross Stripling in the seventh inning. But though the Giants threatened in every remaining inning, that was it against the Dodgers bullpen, who had a 7.35 ERA in 45⅓ innings during the 11-game losing streak.
Brandon Morrow struck out two in the eighth, then Kenley Jansen entered with two outs in the frame. It was Jansen’s third appearance in the last 11 days.
Jansen allowed three singles in the ninth inning, including two of the infield variety to load the bases with one out, but he struck out Buster Posey and Nick Hundley for his 37th save of the season, throwing 29 pitches. It was Jansen’s 10th save of longer than one inning in 2017, second-most in baseball behind Reds closer Raisel Iglesias (11) and the most by a Dodger since Eric Gagne (13) in 2004.
Three strikeouts gave Jansen 101 on the season -- to go with just seven walks — his fourth season with at least 100 strikeouts in relief, the most in Dodgers history.
Chase Utley got the Dodgers even with a solo shot over the right field wall and into McCovey Cove to open the fourth inning. It was just the fourth “splash hit” by a Dodger in the 18-year history of AT&T Park. Utley joined Todd Hundley (2000; the first visitor splash hit), Dioner Navarro (2011) and Joc Pederson (2016).
That wasn’t the end of the rally in the fourth, which saw Kershaw double and beat a throw to third base on a fielder’s choice. That provided a brief scare with trainer Nate Lucero out for a visit, but Kershaw was fine and remained in the game. Kershaw scored on a sacrifice fly, then after an intentional walk Yasiel Puig added a two-run double to widen the advantage.
Puig had two doubles on the night, and has multi-hit games in his last three starts. He has seven extra-base hits in his last nine starts.
Cody Bellinger was intentionally walked three times on Tuesday, tying a Dodgers record. The last two to get intentionally walked three times in a game were Jose Hernandez (in the eighth spot on June 4, 2004) and Kirk Gibson (May 24, 1988).
Bellinger also singled twice, reaching base five times for the first time in his career.
Justin Turner provided some insurance with an RBI double to center field in the eighth inning, giving the Dodgers a two-run advantage. It was the 30th double of the season for Turner, joining Chris Taylor (33) and Corey Seager (31) in the 30-double club in 2017. The franchise record is five players with 30 doubles, set in 1932 in Brooklyn.
Defense pleads the fourth
The fourth inning was a defensive highlight reel for the Dodgers. After a leadoff double by Hundley, Bellinger made a leaping grab at first base of an errant throw by Turner, then tagged Austin Slater before he reached the bag, a call that was originally safe but overruled on replay review. That play produced this visual:
lol what pic.twitter.com/TYBbAq8wqs— Lana Berry (@Lana) September 13, 2017
Then a fly ball to Puig in right saw him unleash a howitzer to the bad at third base that put to rest any thoughts of Hundley advancing a base.
You can't teach this kind of accuracy.— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 13, 2017
Hundley did try to score on a single by Tomlinson to center field, but Taylor delivered a strong throw to the plate to nail Hundley by several feet, so much so that Hundley just gave up on the play and was tagged out. Taylor, a career infielder before 2017, leads the Dodgers with seven outfield assists in 2017.
Back in the win column. #LetsGoDodgers pic.twitter.com/0YJHEouEWB— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 13, 2017
The series finale is set for Wednesday night, another 7:15 p.m. PT start (SportsNet LA, ESPN), with Yu Darvish starting for the Dodgers and left-hander Matt Moore starting for the Giants.
Home runs: Kelby Tomlinson (1)
WP - Clayton Kershaw (17-3): 6 IP, 8 hits, 2 runs (1 earned), 1 walk, 6 strikeouts
LP - Johnny Cueto (7-8): 3⅔ IP, 6 hits, 4 runs, 4 walks, 8 strikeouts
Sv - Kenley Jansen (37): 1⅓ IP, 3 hits, 3 strikeouts