- Tony Jackson, ESPNLosAngeles.com
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LOS ANGELES -- Reigning National League Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw pitched a six-hit shutout, his first complete game this season, and the Los Angeles Dodgers continued their early-season surge despite a slew of injuries, pounding the St. Louis Cardinals 6-0 before 39,383 on Saturday night at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw ran his shutout streak to 22 innings over his past three starts. He threw a season-high 116 pitches in his fourth career shutout and seventh career complete game.
Kershaw wasn't completely dominating. The Cardinals hit several balls hard in the early innings, including a couple of fly balls to the warning track, and he struck out just four batters for the game. But in typical fashion, he repeatedly made big pitches when he needed them, stranding runners in scoring position in the second and third innings in a game that stayed tight until the Dodgers put it away with a four-run seventh.
The Dodgers fielded a lineup that was less than threatening on a night when second baseman Mark Ellis became the fifth regular position player to land on the current disabled list and shortstop Dee Gordon was benched for a lack of offensive production. But the Dodgers managed far more offense than they would need with Kershaw on the mound, running baseball's best record to 27-13 and maintaining their six-game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the National League West.
Streaking. A.J. Ellis ran his streak of reaching base to 28 consecutive games by poking a double into the rightfield corner off Jake Westbrook with two outs in the second inning. That is the longest active streak in the majors. Ellis actually has reached base in 31 of his 32 games this season, the only exception being April 10 when he went 0-for-3 against Pittsburgh.
Opposite extremes. The Dodgers broke on top in the bottom of the fourth inning with a rally that was alternately built around patience and agressiveness, Bobby Abreu leading off by working Westbrook for a classic Abreu-like, nine-pitch walk in which he fouled off three 3-2 pitches, Andre Ethier following with a groundrule double on Westbrook's first pitch, and then Adam Kennedy adding seven more to Westbrook's pitch count before lining a ball off the glove of first baseman Matt Carpenter that wound up in right field as both Abreu and Ethier crossed the plate, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
Redemption. Justin Sellers made up for an earlier gaffe (see below) by making a spectacular, lunging, back-to-the-infield catch of a blooper off the bat of Tyler Greene at the start of the fifth inning, robbing Greene of at least a single. Sellers later put the cherry on top with his second career home run, a solo shot just over the wall in left off Westbrook, to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead.
Tradeoff. It didn't take long for the Dodgers to feel the absence of Gordon, their offensively struggling leadoff man who has been benched for the next few days. With one out in the top of the first, Carlos Beltran hit a high pop to shallow left. Sellers, starting at shortstop in place of the defensively gifted Gordon, ran out while left fielder Abreu ran in. Sellers, who has some speed but nothing on a par with Gordon's, peeled off at the last second, and an apparently stunned Abreu initially made a basket catch, but it didn't stay in his glove long enough for the out to be recorded before it popped out and fell to the grass. Beltran was safe at first and Abreu was charged with his first error of the season for either the Dodgers or the Angels, but no harm, no foul, as Beltran never advanced beyond that.
Turnabout. One night after going 4-for-4 with a double, a walk and an RBI against one of his many former teams, Kennedy went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and got himself picked off first base. He may have been robbed of a two-run single, though, not by any of the Cardinals defenders but by the official scorer. Kennedy absolutely smoked the aforementioned ball off Carpenter's glove, but the scorer charged Carpenter with an error. Kennedy thus got credit for driving in the first run, but not the second.
Opportunity knocks. The Dodgers went 2-for-11 with runners in scoring position (again, with help from the official scorer), or the beating might have been worse.