LOS ANGELES — On a night a Legend of Dodger Baseball was honored at Dodger Stadium, another one was on the mound. Clayton Kershaw has been the Dodgers best pitcher this season, and his seven scoreless innings was enough for the Dodgers to hold off the Cardinals 1-0 on Saturday night.
Kershaw retired his first 13 batters faced against St. Louis, before Dylan Carlson singled in the fifth inning. Kershaw allowed another single to Paul Goldschmidt in the seventh, but that was it, keeping the Cardinals off balance all night.
No Cardinal reached second base against Kershaw.
He struck out nine to tie his season high, but also induced four infield popups, and allowed only three hard-hit balls. Kershaw got a season-best 19 swinging strikes, 11 coming on the slider.
“As far as stuff, start to finish, the fastball glove side, arm side. The curveball, the lateness of it, was as good as I’ve seen it. The slider, the way he tunneled tonight was exceptional,” manager Dave Roberts said. “That’s as good of a team you’re going to see versus left, and the way he dominated those guys tonight was pretty impressive.”
St. Louis entered Saturday hitting .321/.385/.538 against left-handed pitchers, leading the majors in batting average, on-base percentage, and wRC+ (154). Against Kershaw, Cardinals hitters were 2-for-23.
Saturday was the 22nd time Kershaw pitched at least seven innings while allowing no runs and no walks. He also did so on Arpil 18 to beat the Mets and earn his 200th career win. Kershaw has the sixth-most such games, a list topped by Greg Maddux with 41.
Kershaw not only lowered his ERA to 1.89, but he’s been the Dodgers most durable pitcher in the season’s first month. He’s lasted at least six innings in all six starts, even in his one bad start so far, when he allowed four runs in Arizona on April 7. Kershaw leads the National League with 38 innings pitched.
“It means you’re going out there every day for your team,” Kershaw said. “That’s where it all starts. If your starter goes deep into the game, it sets up the bullpen the way you want it, keeps them fresh for the next day. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
By only allowing two hits in his seven innings, Kershaw lowered his career WHIP to 0.99771, after getting below 1.000 for the first time in four and a half years last Sunday in Chicago.
The Dodgers managed only one run of support for Kershaw, with James Outman a single to snap an 0-for-11 skid, followed by a steal of second base in the second inning. Austin Barnes, who entered the night with only three hits in 41 at-bats, singled home Outman.
“Obviously I’ve been struggling a little bit,” Barnes said. “Just to come through, to get us a run across on the board, especially with him on the mound. When we’re downhill and have a lead, he’s really really good.”
Kershaw was pulled after only 88 pitches, with a 1-0 lead and a bullpen that has been shaky all season. But the Dodgers followed him with their two best relievers.
Evan Phillips, who warmed up in the seventh inning, pitched the eighth against the bottom of the Cardinals batting order. He walked a batter and Chris Taylor made an error at shortstop, but Phillips escaped unscathed, with a line drive right at Taylor in the Cardinals’ only at-bat with a runner in scoring position all night.
That left the heart of the order in the ninth for Brusdar Graterol, who allowed a two-out single but otherwise breezed through.
Home runs: none
WP — Clayton Kershaw (5-1): 7 IP, 2 hits, 9 strikeouts
LP — Jordan Montgomery (2-4): 6⅔ IP, 5 hits, 1 run, 2 walks, 7 strikeouts
Sv — Brusdar Graterol (2): 1 IP, 1 hit
The Dodgers go for the sweep on Sunday afternoon (1:10 p.m., SportsNet LA), with Noah Syndergaard trying to get back on track. Right-hander Jake Woodford starts the series finale for St. Louis.