CINCINNATI (AP) Clayton Kershaw said he knew he had to do his part to stop the bleeding.
Following two straight walk-off losses, the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner and former league MVP pitched seven scoreless innings and struck out nine as the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Cincinnati Reds 6-0 on Thursday afternoon to snap a four-game losing streak and avoid a series sweep.
“Offense did it again today,” Kershaw said. “Six early runs, so, as the starting pitcher, you’ve got to make that hold up. It was very similar to the last game I pitched against the Yankees (June 2). They (Dodgers hitters) gave me a bunch of runs early, so I just tried to pound the zone as best I can and today it worked out.”
Kershaw (8-4, 2.95 ERA) scattered five hits and walked two, Chris Taylor hit his 10th home run of the season and Los Angeles improved to 10-3 against Cincinnati dating back to September 2021.
“It seems like every time Clayton’s taking the mound, it’s a must-win,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said. ”(It seems like) he’s got to go deep and cover innings. Well, he did just that.
“For him to get through seven (innings) and for us to use one reliever today was enormous.”
The Dodgers struck first in the third, scoring three runs against Reds starter Graham Ashcraft (3-5, 6.78 ERA). The right-hander plunked both James Outman and Mookie Betts. Outman later came around to score on a base hit by Freddie Freeman.
Ashcraft walked the bases loaded for David Peralta, who brought home two more on a line drive to center field. Ashcraft was pulled after 48 pitches. Reds manager David Bell said he tweaked his calf.
“Graham wasn’t feeling it while he was making his pitches. He felt it walking around,” Bell said. “I knew he wouldn’t be able to go much deeper in the game than we did.”
Los Angeles seized a 4-0 lead in the fourth on a 401-foot home run to center by Taylor off Cincinnati reliever Fernando Cruz.
The Dodgers added two more runs in the frame, as Austin Barnes doubled in Outman, who reached on a walk, and Barnes crossed home plate on a sacrifice fly by Freeman.
After batting left-handed in his fist two big league games, Elly De La Cruz switched to the other side of the plate to face Kershaw. De La Cruz hit an infield single and then collected his first stolen base in the majors.
“I hadn’t seen him hit right-handed yet, so I didn’t have much of a game plan to go off of,” Kershaw said of the 6-foot-5 slugger, who made his major-league debut Tuesday. “I just tried to make some pitches. He’s a good player, though.”
Kershaw faced De La Cruz again in the sixth. With runners at the corners and no outs, De La Cruz drew an automatic ball due to a pitch-clock violation by Kershaw. Kershaw then threw three straight strikes, including a nasty breaking ball on the last one, to send De La Cruz swinging back to the dugout.
“We’ve seen Kershaw quite a bit,” Bell said. “He had different shapes on his slider. We really didn’t have an answer for it. We give him a lot of credit. To find ways to improve at this point in his career is very impressive.”
De La Cruz got one more at-bat in the eighth, this time against reliever Tayler Scott. He struck out swinging on the fifth pitch. De La Cruz finished the day 1 for 4 with three strikeouts.
Dodgers: Scott was recalled, while RHP Noah Syndergaard was placed on the 15-day injured list with a blister on his right index finger. Roberts said Syndergaard will be out at least “a few weeks” to both heal and get away from baseball to “reset” physically, mentally and emotionally. Catcher Austin Barnes underwent X-rays on his right hand after being hit by a pitch in the eighth. Roberts said the injury “didn’t look good and didn’t sound good.”
Reds: RHP Hunter Greene remains on pace to start Sunday in St. Louis, Bell said. Greene hasn’t pitched since June 1 due to stiffness in his right hip.
Dodgers: Los Angeles heads to Philadelphia on Friday to open a three-game series against the Phillies. RHP Michael Grove (0-2, 8.14 ERA) will lead the Dodgers against LHP Ranger Suárez (1-2, 5.47 ERA) and the defending NL champions.
Reds: RHP Ben Lively (3-3, 3.03 ERA) will get the ball Friday night when Cincinnati begins a three-game set in St. Louis. LHP Jordan Montgomery is scheduled to start for the last-place Cardinals, who are 13-16 at home this season.
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