Dan Haren (L, 4-4) was sharp for the better part of seven innings, but Clayton Kershaw (W, 4-2) made it his day to shine, holding the Washington Nationals (21-18) to just five hits and one walk in 8.2 innings in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ (16-22) 2-0 win Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw reached the 1,000-inning mark, making it official that he now boasts the best ERA (2.70) among starters with 1,000 or more innings pitched in the Live Ball Era. Kershaw struck out 11 batters and reached a career-high 132 pitches against a Nats lineup that featured a very different outfield from the norm.
Washington was without Bryce Harper, who sat out Tuesday’s game after colliding face-first with the outfield scoreboard Monday night. Davey Johnson also opted to sit Denard Span to allow Eury Perez to make his first career start.
At first, it seemed unlikely Kershaw would pen an impressive outing into the books, even against a mix-and-matched Nats batting order. After lead-off man Danny Espinosa struck out in the first and Steve Lombardozzi popped to short, Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond hit back-to-back singles to spark an early two-out opportunity for the Nats.
Adam LaRoche worked Kershaw from a 1-2 count to a total of seven pitches before he finally drew a walk. By the time Tyler Moore struck out with the bases loaded, the Nats had an ever-so-small reason to view the glass as half full – Kershaw had already thrown 29 pitches in the first.
But, it never seemed to matter.
In the second inning, Kershaw struck out the side and he started the third with two more Ks to Espinosa and Lombardozzi.
In the bottom of the third, things went south for Haren rather quickly. On Haren’s fourth pitch to Kershaw, who holds a career .146 batting average, he drilled the southpaw on an 87 MPH cutter. Haren forced Carl Crawford to fly to center without advancing the runner, but Matt Kemp’s one-out single gave the Dodgers runners at first and second.
Haren regained control of his cutter in time to strike out Adrian Gonzalez for out number two, but Andre Ethier followed up with a single to center to plate both Kershaw and Kemp and give the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.
In the end, it was all they needed. The Nats didn’t reach base again until Ryan Zimmerman singled once more in the top of the sixth with one out. He advanced to second on a Desmond groundout, but nothing more.
Haren stayed sharp for the remainder of his outing, despite getting a bit of a scare in the fifth. While running to first on a groundout off the bat of Crawford, Haren’s spike got caught on the mound, which appeared to cause him a bit of discomfort. He remained in the game, unharmed, and achieved a final line of 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 0 BB, 4 K, throwing 71 of 101 pitches for strikes.
Ryan Mattheus provided an inning of perfect relief, but the Nationals never created another opportunity for themselves on offense. With the loss, they are now 9-9 on the road.
THE GOOD: Dan Haren pitched a solid outing, despite coming away with another loss. Aside for the third inning, he maintained good movement on his pitches and avoided pitching into any major jams.
The Nats can also celebrate the fact that, on a night when many of the familiar faces sat on the bench, Ryan Zimmerman held true to his own, going 3-for-4 against a stellar Clayton Kershaw.
THE BAD: Whether or not the Nats were without their outfield trifecta, they still managed just five hits Tuesday night and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position.
THE UGLY: Danny Espinosa went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
THE STATS: 5 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 12 K, 6 LOB, 0-for-4 with RISP
NEXT GAME: Wednesday, May 15 at 10:10 p.m. ET, LHP Ross Detwiler (2-3, 2.53 ERA) vs. RHP Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.59 ERA)