LOS ANGELES (AP)—Clayton Kershaw(notes) impressed just about everybody except himself in becoming the Los Angeles Dodgers’ first 20-game winner in 21 years. Fittingly, his accomplishment came against a team he has dominated this season.
Kershaw improved to 5-0 against San Francisco with a 2-1 victory on Tuesday night that pushed the Giants closer to elimination from the NL West race.
Kershaw (20-5) allowed six hits and one run in 7 1-3 innings, walked two and struck out six to become the first Dodgers pitcher to go 5-0 against the Giants since Vic Lombardi in 1946. He did it on what would have been Lombardi’s 89th birthday.
“Don’t overthink it,” Kershaw said of his strategy against the Dodgers’ biggest rival. “You have a tendency sometimes when you face a team over and over to try to change things.”
Four of those victories came against two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum(notes), with Kershaw allowing one earned run in those games. That came on an eighth-inning homer by Chris Stewart(notes).
“It’s frustrating, obviously,” Lincecum said. “But when you go up against a guy like that who’s having a year like this, you’ve got to be on your game. Every run counts, so you can’t go out there and give him a two-run lead and kind of put the ball in his court to put his foot down because he tends to do that a lot. And it’s not just against us.”
Kershaw issued his only two walks after Stewart’s one-out homer. Kenley Jansen(notes) relieved him, striking out pinch-hitter Pablo Sandoval(notes) and Carlos Beltran(notes) on a called third strike to end the inning.
“I love situations like that, tight games, especially when we’re up by one,” Jansen said. “That’s a blessing just being a part of him getting those 20 wins.”
“It’s a testament to our bullpen tonight,” Kershaw said. “These guys picked me up time in and time out. It’s a culmination of things. When you win 20 games it’s a whole lot of people helping you out back there.”
Kershaw kept his name in the mix to win the NL Cy Young Award. He’s tied with Arizona’s Ian Kennedy(notes) for the league lead in wins and leads the majors with a 2.27 ERA. Kershaw’s 242 strikeouts lead the NL, too.
“If I were to receive that, it wouldn’t go lightly,” he said.
Lincecum doesn’t have a vote, but if he did he said it would go to Kershaw “just because of the numbers that he has.
“He’s leading in a lot of categories and putting up a 20-win season is huge, especially with the team they’ve got. He’s done a magnificent job this year. I’m sure (the four wins against Lincecum) will weigh into the decisions of people, but we’re not the only team he’s had great games against,” he said.
Lincecum (13-13) extended his career-high loss total, giving up two runs and eight hits in seven innings. He struck out five and walked three. The right-hander got two or fewer runs of support for the 20th time in his 32 starts.
The loss ended the Giants’ eight-game winning streak and dropped them another game behind Atlanta and St. Louis in the NL wild card race. They trail the Braves by 4 1/2 and the Cardinals by two with eight games to play.
“It hurts a lot, just because of the roll we’d been on,” Lincecum said. “This is going to set us back a little bit. We’ve just got to pray for a miracle.”
Jerry Sands(notes) homered leading off the second inning to help the Dodgers win their fourth in a row and move a game above .500 for the first time since April 29 against San Diego. James Loney’s(notes) RBI single with two outs in the first gave them a 1-0 lead.
Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to win 20 games since Ramon Martinez(notes) went 20-6 in 1990. The left-hander extended his winning streak to a career-high seven games and improved to 12-1 in 16 home starts.
“The whole body of work has been tremendous,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “The kid’s been doing this every time out for the most part. The performances speak for themselves. You don’t need to politic for him.”
Kershaw departed to a standing ovation with one out in the eighth. He left the stadium carrying a bottle of 2000 vintage Dom Perignon champagne decorated to commemorate his milestone by clubhouse attendant Mitch Poole.
The Dodgers picked off baserunners three times, with Kershaw involved twice. He picked off Beltran to end the first and later got Justin Christian(notes), giving Kershaw eight pickoffs which leads the NL.
NOTES: Kershaw is the 16th 20-game winner in Dodgers’ history. … The Dodgers improved to 23-20 in one-run games, including a 16-7 mark at home. … Beltran snapped an 0 for 9 streak in his career against Kershaw with singles in his first two at-bats. … At 23, Kershaw became the second-youngest 20-game winner in Dodgers’ history behind Martinez, who was 22 in 1990. … Kemp was chosen by his teammates as winner of the Roy Campanella Award, given to the Dodgers player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the late Hall of Fame catcher. … Lincecum fell to 0-3 with a 1.82 ERA in his five matchups with Kershaw this season.