The left-hander allowed two hits and struck out seven on 102 pitches in a 1-0 victory over the Cincinnati Reds on Monday night. Kershaw retired his final 17 batters after issuing just his fifth walk of the season to Joey Votto leading off the fourth inning.
“I’ve seen about enough of Kershaw for the past seven or eight years,” Reds manager Bryan Price said.
Kershaw (7-1) had his franchise-record streak of six starts in a row with at least 10 strikeouts end, but the fans were appreciative, chanting “MVP! MVP!” in the ninth.
“I wasn’t as good as I had been in the past,” he said. “Early in the game, I was falling behind. When you fall behind you’re not going to get the strikeouts. As the game went on I got a little bit better with the fastball command and started throwing it for strikes.”
The Dodgers won back-to-back games for the first time since taking three in a row May 12-14. They needed just 2 hours, 11 minutes, to beat the Reds after outlasting San Diego in 5:47 on Sunday.
The Dodgers beat Cincinnati for the seventh straight time, their longest active streak against any opponent.
“We’re building our team and we’re going to get some guys back from the DL and a lot of these guys are playing in the major leagues for the time,” Price said. “We’re taking steps.”
Los Angeles used a combined 13 relievers in consecutive extra-inning games at San Diego last weekend.
“He knows how taxed they’ve been. It seems like every time he pitches it’s coming off a tired bullpen,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “You should have seen the reception he got when he came in from those guys. J.P. Howell was the first one over here to give him a big bear hug.”
Brandon Finnegan (1-3) allowed five hits in his first career complete game for Cincinnati, which had its season-worst skid extended to eight games. The left-hander, who struck out two and walked four in a career-high eight innings, hasn’t won since April 16.
“I’ve gone up against some of the best pitchers in baseball and sometimes things just don’t go your way,” Finnegan said.
The Reds didn’t get a runner past second base after the first inning against Kershaw.
“He’s really tough when he throws that fastball low and away to a right-handed hitter,” Reds third baseman Jordan Pacheco said.
Kershaw singled leading off the third before the Reds turned the first of four double plays to end the inning. He was busy on the basepaths in the fifth. Kershaw grounded into a fielder’s choice to shortstop, slid into second on a wild pitch by Finnegan, got up and ran to third, sliding safely on a throwing error by catcher Tucker Barnhart.
“He’s a maniac out there on the bases. When he steps in the box, he wants to hit and help his team,” Ellis said.
Cincinnati committed a season high-tying three errors, including two by Barnhart.
Reds: RHP Tim Adleman (left oblique), RHP Homer Bailey (right elbow), RHP Michael Lorenzen (right elbow), OF Yorman Rodriguez (left hamstring) and C Kyle Skipworth (right ankle) are due to come off the DL during the first week of June. So far this season, the Reds have started their projected lineup just four times because of injuries.
Dodgers: RHP Chin-Hui Tsao went on the 15-day DL with a right triceps strain, retroactive to Sunday. … LF Scott Van Slyke (lower back irritation) is set to play nine innings at first base for Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday.
Marty Brennaman, radio voice of the Reds since 1974, makes no bones about his favorite ballpark.
“When the bus pulls up to the outfield I still get a thrill because this place is so beautiful,” he said. “They’ve maintained it really well and I love coming here. I really like Fenway and Wrigley Field, but Dodger Stadium is my favorite.”
Reds: RHP Daniel Wright makes his major league debut after four minor league starts — two each at Triple-A Louisville and Double A-Pensacola.
Dodgers: RHP Mike Bolsinger (0-1, 6.23 ERA) returns from Triple-A Oklahoma City to start, replacing scheduled starter Ross Stripling, who pitched three innings Sunday for the win against San Diego in 17 innings. Bolsinger made his season debut last Wednesday against the Angels, taking the loss after allowing three runs on seven hits in 4 1/3 innings before getting sent down.