Dodgers grab finale, 5-3

Clayton Kershaw was brilliant, the Dodgers’ offense was balanced once again, and the relief corps did just enough to secure a victory in the finale of the rubber game with the Angels, 5-3.

Kershaw delivered a near-virtuoso performance tonight: seven innings, four hits, four walks, and no runs. The 21-year-old, operating without his best stuff, struck out only five but got 11 ground ball outs. He threw 107 pitches in his seven innings of work, his longest outing since May 17 in Florida.

For the first seven innings, the Dodgers offense wasn’t too balanced. It essentially relied on two guys: Matt Kemp to single, and Juan Pierre to send him home with an RBI double. Joe Torre’s recent decision to bat Matt Kemp late in the order as a sort of second leadoff hitter began to really pay dividends tonight, as Kemp’s speed on the bases allowed him to be both a table-setter and potential table-clearer.

Eventually, James Loney hit a two-run shot in the eighth (it was reviewed by the umpires and upheld) and Casey Blake hit an RBI base knock in the ninth to cap the Dodgers’ twelve-hit performance.

After Kershaw exited, Ramon Troncoso came in for the eighth. He got two outs but put two runners on before being pulled. Situational lefty Brent Leach — who’s been nearly twice as effective against right-handed hitters as lefties — got Angel pinch-hitter Kendry Morales to hit a grounder to Blake at third.

Blake delivered an off-line throw to Loney at first, however, and the Angels scored their first run of the night. Jonathan Broxton then came in and walked Gary Matthews Jr. — the perpetrator of last night’s ninth-inning homer — before striking out Erick Aybar to end the inning. Broxton ran into a bit more trouble in the ninth, allowing two runners to score, before getting Napoli to ground out to end the game with Rivera at first.

Big win for the Dodgers, who move to 46-24. Angels again stay a half-game back of Texas at 36-31. The Blue have a day off tomorrow while they travel to Chicago to take on the White Sox in a three-game set beginning Tuesday.

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Dodgers up 1-0 in the middle of the sixth

Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw seems to have grown up quite a bit in the last few weeks, showing a lot of poise in escaping out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the fifth. Despite struggling somewhat with his control — he’s thrown four walks — Kershaw has only thrown 78 pitches through five innings. I say only because he has averaged more than 90 per five innings entering tonight. He should be able to last at least seven barring an offensive attack from the Angels.

Offensively, the Dodgers managed to put a run together in the top of the fifth via a Matt Kemp single and RBI double by Juan Pierre.

Angels starter John Lackey has thrown 91 pitches through six innings; he’s also walked four but has scattered three hits.

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6/21: Dodgers at Angels (Rubber game)

National TV tonight, as Clayton Kershaw and John Lackey match up on ESPN. The 30-year-old Lackey hasn’t been his normal self since returning from injury on May 16. In seven starts (really six, because of that two-pitch debacle where he hit Texas’ Ian Kinsler to lead off the game and was tossed) Lackey’s totaled a 2-2 record and 6.10 ERA.

Kershaw hasn’t lived up to his big expectations just yet, but the 21-year-old lefthander hasn’t been nearly as awful as you think, recording a 4.13 ERA in 69 2/3 innings pitched. His last time out was a dandy — four hits, three walks and no runs in five and 2/3 innings against the A’s last Tuesday.

Russell Martin, taking the day off behind the plate, moves up to sixth in the order after an eye-opening 3-for-4 performance last night.

One interesting note: both of these teams — as good ones tend to do — start pretty much the same guys every night. You won’t see Joe Torre or Mike Scioscia send out a typical Sunday lineup in this one.

Pierre, LF
Furcal, SS
Hudson, 2B
Blake, 3B
Ethier, RF
Martin, DH
Loney, 1B
Kemp, CF
Ausmus, C

Figgins, 3B
Abreu, RF
Hunter, CF
Guerrerro, DH
Rivera, LF
Napoli, C
Quinlan, 1B
S. Rodriguez, 2B
Aybar, SS

Happy Father’s Day to all those dads out there. Enjoy it. In-game updates to come.

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