LOS ANGELES ― As Clayton Kershaw walked off the mound to end the eighth inning, the announced crowd of 46,315 at Dodger Stadium stood to applaud. Kershaw had struck out 13 batters and allowed just four hits and a run. It was a vintage performance and almost a vintage salute.
Kershaw was stopped on his way back to the dugout by home plate umpire Ryan Blakney. The compulsory inspection of Kershaw’s hat, glove and belt passed quickly. Blakney handed Kershaw his hat, and the pitcher ironically tipped it to the crowd.
There was rarely a moment Sunday when the Dodgers could not enjoy their eventual 7-1 win over the Chicago Cubs. Zach McKinstry hit a grand slam in the second inning. Four batters later, Cody Bellinger hit a two-run homer of his own. With the 33-year-old Kershaw turning back the clock, the victory was seldom in doubt.
Kershaw needed 101 pitches to complete eight innings, a season high. He had not struck out 13 batters in a start since July 2017. All of his strikeouts came on sliders or curveballs, more than any pitcher since Kershaw himself when he no-hit the Colorado Rockies in June 2014.
The Dodgers (47-31) have won three straight games since they were held hitless by the Cubs in a 4-0 loss Thursday. They are 3 ½ games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants (50-27) in the National League West, with a chance to gain ground when the Giants visit for a two-game series beginning Monday.
McKinstry, who got the start in left field with a right-handed pitcher (Adbert Alzolay) on the mound for Chicago, had two of the Dodgers’ eight hits as a team. So did third baseman Justin Turner.
Kershaw allowed a solo home run to Javier Baez in the fourth inning, but otherwise stayed out of trouble. He walked one batter and lowered his earned-run average from 3.43 to 3.25. Phil Bickford pitched a scoreless ninth inning.
This post first appeared on ocregister.com