LOS ANGELES -- It's usually a sign that things are going well for your team when a national debate springs up about which one of your pitchers should win the Cy Young Award.
A day after Zack Greinke added a little more evidence to his excellent case, Clayton Kershaw continued his hard late charge. The Los Angeles Dodgers' 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants behind Kershaw's complete-game gem finished a three-game sweep and gave them a 6½-game lead in the National League West, their most comfortable position all season.
How it happened: Kershaw already has tied his career high for strikeouts with 251, and he has at least five more starts to go. It’s not unreasonable to think that Kershaw could get to 300, becoming the first pitcher in either league to do so since Randy Johnson in 2002.
He struck out 15 Giants Wednesday night, tying a career high, allowed just six hits and walked one. It was far from a stress-free game, as the Dodgers again struggled to score. After the Giants got two runners on base in the ninth inning, manager Don Mattingly went out to consult with Kershaw, but left him in the game though he had thrown 127 pitches. Kershaw struck out Marlon Byrd on five pitches to end it.
Kershaw’s pickoff move has become a major weapon, as if he needed another, putting him in a class with some of the great pickoff artists, such as Steve Carlton and Andy Pettitte. The first two Giants who reached base off him, Buster Posey and Kelby Tomlinson, quickly got picked off, or so it seemed. The Tomlinson call, which came in the sixth inning, was overturned via replay.
That proved important because San Francisco tied it up later that inning when Angel Pagan singled off Justin Turner’s glove to drive in Tomlinson, who had stolen second base. Turner probably should have made the play, but it was hit hard and ruled a single. Kershaw promptly picked off Pagan at first.
Chase Utley homered in the bottom of the inning to give Kershaw the lead back.
Mike Leake pitched well for the Giants, but the Dodgers helped him out a bit. They haven’t been a good situational hitting team this season. In the second inning, they scored a run on Carl Crawford’s double, but they should have scored two. They left Crawford stranded at third base, despite that he reached there with just one out. When a Dodger has reached third base with less than two outs, he has scored 48 percent of the time this season. Only seven other MLB teams have scored as infrequently in those situations.
What it means: This series quickly made the NL West a borderline boring race, exactly what the Dodgers were trying to accomplish. Only one division leader, the Kansas City Royals, has a bigger division lead.
Notable: Giants manager Bruce Bochy was ejected for the second night in a row, though he was arguing with the same umpire both times. After Mike Winters ruled that Brandon Belt hadn’t held up on a checked swing in the eighth inning, Bochy got the hook, then ambled out to have his say. Kershaw didn’t look thrilled with the delay while Bochy argued, but it was probably worth a shot at disrupting the ace’s rhythm. Justin Turner was safe after one of the strangest slides in baseball history. Trying to steal second base shortly after getting hit in the left hand by a pitch, Turner would have been out by a wide margin. But he pulled back his left hand at the last second and reached out with his right. Meanwhile, his helmet tumbled off his head and blocked Ehire Adrianza from tagging him. Adrianza tagged an empty helmet. A mild left shoulder injury seems to have had some effect on Yasmani Grandal’s hitting. Either that or it’s a major coincidence. Grandal has been in and out of the lineup at times and he has three hits in his past 46 at-bats with 16 strikeouts. Utley’s home run, which eked over the right-field wall, was his first as a Dodger and second since June 2.