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Behind Kershaw, Dodgers sweep Rays

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- Giving Clayton Kershaw a six-run lead is like giving Mike Tyson brass knuckles, Usain Bolt a 20-yard head start, Jimmie Johnson an extra tank of gas.

The Tampa Bay Rays learned that lesson Sunday.

The Los Angeles Dodgers moved to 49-0 when scoring at least four runs for Kershaw and won for the 37th time in 45 games overall, completing a three-game sweep of the Rays with an 8-2 win Sunday at Dodger Stadium.

"He's one of the most amazing guys I've ever caught at pitching to the scoreboard," Los Angeles catcher A.J. Ellis said. "He knows when he needs to match zeros with the other guy; he knows when he needs to put zeros up to stop the momentum. He knows when he needs to rear back for a strikeout; he knows when he needs to conserve his pitch count.

"He's always managing the game, and that's what separates him."

With the win, Los Angeles completed the best 45-game streak since 1977 and the best in the National League since the Brooklyn Dodgers also went 37-8 in 1953. The Dodgers are unbeaten in their last 15 series. They are a season-high 17 games over .500 and 7 1/2 games up in the NL West.

"I don't know if surprised is the best word, but you rattle off a streak like we're on and it's a little more than luck," Kershaw said. "We're a pretty good team right now, and it's a lot of fun coming to the yard every day."

The fun started early, and then Kershaw kicked it into high gear.

The Dodgers jumped on Tampa Bay starter Jeremy Hellickson in a hurry, and Kershaw hit cruise control after picking up a big hit of his own before steamrolling the Rays for eight innings.

The reigning NL pitcher of the month allowed three hits and two runs (one earned) while striking out eight before giving way to Carlos Marmol. Kershaw (11-7) threw 102 pitches, including 69 strikes, and delivered a two-run single as he led the Dodgers to their 20th win in 23 second-half games.

"It's absolutely incredible," Dodgers second baseman Mark Ellis said of Kershaw. "He's been carrying us all year. We haven't scored enough runs for him, and he hasn't complained one time. He took matters into his own hands tonight, got a base hit with a two-run single. It's incredible; he's as complete a player as there is. He's like the perfect ballplayer."

Added Tampa Bay's Wil Myers: "He's good. He's really good. The thing that makes him really good is his delivery. He can keep the (opponent) off-balance with timing, and he has good stuff to go along with that."

Uncharacteristically, the Los Angeles lineup -- missing Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez -- produced in a big way for Kershaw.

Four Dodgers had multiple hits, including Mark Ellis, who led the way with a home run, a double, a single and three RBIs. Carl Crawford, A.J. Ellis and Dee Gordon added two hits apiece for Los Angeles, which leads the majors in batting average.

Hellickson (10-6) became the sixth Rays pitcher in nine games to fail to make it out of the fifth inning. He lasted just three innings, giving up four runs on seven hits.

The Dodgers jumped to a 6-0 lead through the third, giving Kershaw rare early support. Los Angeles scored four or more runs for Kershaw for just the ninth time in his 25 starts this year.

Kershaw knocked in the game's first two runs in the second inning. Mark Ellis followed two batters later with an RBI double, scoring Kershaw.

A.J. Ellis added a sacrifice fly in the third inning after Yasiel Puig banged a stand-up double. Adrian Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the fourth.

Tampa Bay finally made some noise in the fifth inning, getting two hits, including a Sam Fuld RBI triple.

NOTES: Los Angeles RHP Brian Wilson threw his second consecutive 1-2-3 inning of relief for Triple-A Albuquerque. He's expected to pitch again Tuesday before possibly joining the Dodgers later this week. ... Dodgers rookie RHP Stephen Fife will remain with Albuquerque for more relief appearances but is available as emergency starter. ... Ramirez sat out again out due to a shoulder injury, but he took infield practice. ... Hellickson batted in the No. 8 hole for Tampa Bay, the first time in club history a Rays pitcher batted eighth and the first time a Dodgers opponent did so since Pirates LHP Zach Duke batted in that slot in May 2010. He struck out in his only plate appearance. ... Tampa Bay released RHP Kyle Farnsworth after designating him for assignment Friday. ... Rays LHP Matt Moore (elbow soreness) had a successful throwing session Sunday and is expected to throw again during the week.
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