- Mark Saxon, ESPN Staff Writer
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PHOENIX -- Clayton Kershaw kept his MVP campaign marching along quite steadily.
Kershaw (16-3) became the majors’ first 16-game winner -- though he missed six weeks with an injury -- and the Dodgers won for the fifth time in their past six games by defeating the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-1 on Wednesday night.
How it happened: Kershaw wasn’t at his most dominant in the early innings, but he stabilized and pitched eight strong innings in one of his least favorite stadiums. Kershaw hasn’t pitched fewer than seven innings since June 8, and that game was cut short by rain. He came into Wednesday with a 4.10 ERA at Chase Field and had allowed seven runs in 1 2/3 innings the most recent time he pitched here, in May. Wednesday he reversed that mojo by striking out 10 batters and holding Arizona to an unearned run on six hits. He lowered his ERA to 1.73.
Hits: Matt Kemp is slugging .120 points higher since the All-Star break than he did before it. The Dodgers also feel like he’s running better and playing better defense. Whether the uptick is a simple matter of improving health or increasing confidence, the Dodgers aren’t asking too many questions. Kemp sliced a two-run double to right-center field and was thrown out trying to stretch it to a triple. He has eight doubles and eight of his 16 home runs since the break.
Misses: The Dodgers are sticking with the plan of inserting Miguel Rojas into games for the eighth and ninth innings in order to give themselves better shortstop defense. That will give Hanley Ramirez fewer at-bats in these final five weeks of the regular season. So far, he hasn’t exactly come off the disabled list on a roll. Ramirez has one hit and five strikeouts in 12 at-bats. The Dodgers will give him time to get his timing back, but it’s not an easy thing to do given the defensive sacrifice they’re making.
Stat of the game: For the second year in a row, the Dodgers are leading the majors in road winning percentage (.618). Before 2013, it had happened just four times (1962, 1963, 1974 and 1985) since the team moved to Los Angeles in 1958.
Up next: The Dodgers have Thursday off before starting a three-game series in San Diego Friday night.
7hZach Mariner and Marty Callinan, ESPN Stats & Info