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Saturday, August 4, 2012
3 up, 3 down: Dodgers 3, Cubs 1

By Blair Angulo


LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw allowed only three hits and struck out seven in seven innings Saturday night to lead the Dodgers to a 3-1 victory against the Chicago Cubs, clinching a series win.

The San Francisco Giants also won, 11-6 at Colorado, so the Dodgers remained half a game behind their rivals in the National League West standings.

The Good:

An assist. A lucky bounce proved to be the difference in this one. Matt Kemp's go-ahead two-run blast in the fourth needed a small nudge to go over the right-center field wall, and Cubs center fielder Joe Mather was there to provide it. Mather leaped and extended his glove in attempt to catch the ball, but instead guided it past the edge.

Best for last. Kershaw made his last pitch his best pitch, freezing Luis Valbuena with an unforgiving 74-mph curveball to strand the tying run on second in the seventh. Valbuena, a left-handed hitter, proved to be the toughest out in the Cubs lineup Saturday, seeing a combined 17 pitches to draw walks in each of his first two at-bats. But, when it mattered most, Kershaw got the best of him.

No easy out. It's funny to say this about a pitcher, but Kershaw has had an underwhelming year at the plate. He collected a career-high 16 hits last season to finish with a respectable .225 batting average, but had only four knocks heading into Saturday's game. Kershaw added two to that total against the Cubs, singling sharply in his two at-bats.

The Bad:

Slumping middle. The fourth and fifth hitters in Saturday's lineup have had a homestand to forget. Andre Ethier, who has not homered since July 14, went 0-for-3 and is 3-for-17 since returning from the 10-game road trip. Hanley Ramirez made an impact last weekend against the rival Giants but is 2-for-18 since. Even his sharp grounder that scored Shane Victorino in the eighth was ruled an error.

No movement. By all indications, Mark Ellis tried sending the ball to the right side in the eighth with no outs and Victorino on second base. Ellis had flied out and singled to right field earlier in the game, but bounced back to the pitcher and Victorino had nowhere to go. With first base open, the Cubs walked Kemp intentionally.

Unexpected hurdle. An extended injury delay shortened Rubby De La Rosa's rehab start for Single-A Rancho Cucamonga on Saturday, though it had nothing to do with De La Rosa's surgically repaired right elbow. De La Rosa was removed as a precaution after the plate umpire was hurt. He struck out four in two hitless innings.