With extra rest and October in mind, Clayton Kershaw got back to doing what he does best - completely dominate the competition.
Kershaw went seven strong in holding the Padres scoreless to go along with 10 strikeouts, and two-run shots by A.J. Ellis and Yasiel Puig were more than enough for the Dodgers to win, 4-0. Kershaw has one start left in the regular season, but has already all but wrapped up his second Cy Young Award in the last three seasons.
Since the NL West is already clinched, the only bit of drama left is home field advantage. The Braves lost late to the Cubs, and have lost six of their last 10. They still have a 1/2 game edge over the Cardinals, and 2 1/2 over the Dodgers and Pirates. Next week should be interesting in that duel.
In this game, both teams put multiple runners on in the first. The Dodgers loaded the bases on a walk to Puig (who was then forced at second on Carl Crawford's grounder), a walk to Matt Kemp, and a single by Juan Uribe. Mark Ellis struck out to end it. The Padres had Chris Denorfia single on the first pitch and Jedd Gyorko walk, but that was it.
The best chance for the Padres to score came in the third, when they foolishly ran into the last out. The opposing pitcher Burch Smith singled leading off, Denorfia walked, and both advanced a base when Chase Headley struck out. Gyorko then grounded out to Ellis at second, and Smith tried to sneak home and was gunned out by Adrian Gonzalez.
Sure enough, the Dodgers immediately took advantage of that gaffe. In the fourth, Mark Ellis took a walk with one out, and his "brother" A.J. Ellis took a low and inside pitch out to left for a two-run homer.
Kershaw was in full control at this point, as Gyorko's double play led to eight straight retired before Headley doubled in the sixth (he was stranded). Then Kershaw laid down a perfect bunt leading off the seventh. Puig, who without a doubt goes for it all on every swing, definitely connected on a high fastball out to dead center for a 457 foot homer, making it 4-0. It was an absolute mammoth shot.
The bullpen took over the final two innings, as Ronald Belisario and Brian Wilson each went 1-2-3 in ending the game.
One night after Don Mattingly ran out a Spring Training lineup, which was completely understandable considering the regulars were so exhausted from all of that swimming they did in Arizona, which raised the ire of perennial losers like John McCain, everyone was back in the lineup except for Hanley Ramirez. And that's not a surprise, because Ramirez probably won't be seeing much action as the season winds down.
Anyway, it was good to see Kershaw get the support he needed in winning his 15th game. He's been uncharacteristically erratic in September, so I'm sure it naturally had to feel good to him that the bats had his back, and not a bunch of guys better suited for Triple-A.
Kershaw is expected to end the season at home against the Rockies next Friday. At this point, it's all about padding the stats, though I don't think he even needs to do that to win the Cy Young. There's a few other guys who will get some love like Craig Kimbrel, Adam Wainwright, Francisco Liriano, Cliff Lee, and Jose Fernandez. Those guys are great... but they're not Kershaw.
Speaking of great pitchers, Zack Greinke hasn't lost since July 25 against the Reds. At the time he was 8-3 with a 3.49 ERA, and now he's 15-3 with a 2.75 ERA. He'll look to make that even better by going on Sunday afternoon.