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Dodgers' Kershaw breezes through Nationals

The SportsXchange

LOS ANGELES -- At one point in Clayton Kershaw's start against the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night, he looked almost, well, human.

Back-to-back singles and a walk had the bases loaded with two outs in the first inning, and if the teeth at Dodger Stadium were clinched any tighter, a dentist could've made a killing on all those fillings.

Instead, Kershaw struck out Tyler Moore, ending the threat.

Then he struck out another National to open the second inning, and another, and another.

And another and another, six in a row, making Washington's threat look about as scary as a toddler with a feather and an axe to grind.

Kershaw dazzled a Nationals lineup sans Bryce Harper, and the Dodgers eked out a 2-0 win on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium.

"They're an aggressive team and once I got ahead I was able to throw some pitches out of the strike zone that they chased," Kershaw said. "Toward the end of the game, they started swinging a little bit earlier and were putting the ball in play."

A day after the Nationals ended Los Angeles' brief two-game winning streak despite the loss of their young star -- Harper crashed face-first into the right-field wall and missed Tuesday's matchup with general soreness and nausea -- the Dodgers (16-22) got back into the win column behind their ace.

Kershaw (4-2) had 11 strikeouts, including six in a row during a stretch from the first through third innings, before exiting with two outs in the ninth inning and a runner on first. He threw a season-high 132 pitches, needing 29 pitches to work out of the first-inning jam.

"The big thing for me was that first inning; I threw 29 pitches so I really had to fight that pitch count and go deep in the game," Kershaw said. "We needed a deep game and fortunately I got the pitch count back under control."

Surpassing the 1,000-inning mark for his career in the first inning, Kershaw finally qualified for the all-time ERA list, and his 2.71 mark is the best among active starting pitchers.

It was clear he wouldn't be falling on the list on Tuesday.

Washington (21-18) managed just five hits off Kershaw, who nearly went the distance for the first time since an Opening Day 4-0 win over the San Francisco Giants. Only Ryan Zimmerman did any real damage against Kershaw on Tuesday, collecting three hits.

"He had a good breaking ball," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "When he gets that slider going down and in, it's tough. You don't really see spin with that thing. It comes out like a fastball and it's gone. It's one of those that just disappears on you."

Added Zimmerman: "He's obviously one of the best pitchers in the game. I guess you just have to kind of keep it simple. I wish I knew what I was doing so I could tell everyone."

Kenley Jansen relieved Kershaw to face Moore, and he struck out the batter to pick up his second save of the season.

The Nationals squandered a fine performance by Dan Haren (4-4), who allowed just four hits and two runs in seven innings.

"Dan threw the ball great tonight," Zimmerman said. "The last five starts he's been great. He just ran into a guy who threw a little bit better tonight. I think everyone will take a performance like that from Danny every time."

With a curveball that drops like an anvil from an airplane, Kershaw needed little support, and in what's become an alarming trend for Los Angeles, the Dodgers gave him little in return.

The Dodgers barely fazed Haren, though Andre Ethier delivered the big blow in a 1-for-3 night. Ethier had a two-out, two-run single in the third inning, driving home Kershaw and Matt Kemp.

"Against a guy like that, you have to be perfect," Haren said. "I wasn't perfect. I made a few mistakes. Hitting Kershaw, the base hit up the middle to Ethier. ... I had to be perfect and I wasn't."

NOTES: Dodgers RHP Zack Greinke will make his first major-league start since mid-April on Wednesday night against Washington. Greinke, who has been on the disabled list since April 12 with a broken clavicle, remained in limbo as late as Monday about his status. He was scheduled to start Wednesday at either Class A Rancho Cucamonga or up with the Dodgers, but his health checked out. Greinke is 1-0 with a 1.59 ERA for the Dodgers after signing a $159 million contract during the offseason. ... Harper's folly was not his first: He crashed into a wall at Atlanta less than two weeks ago. ... Dodgers LHP Scott Elbert made his second rehab appearance at Class A Rancho Cucamonga on Monday night, striking out two in a scoreless inning. Elbert had elbow surgery during the offseason and has yet to appear for the Dodgers this season. ... Washington CF Denard Span, batting .277 with five stolen bases, was held out of the starting lineup. He popped out as an eighth-inning pinch hitter, then remained in the game. ... Washington's win at Dodger Stadium on Monday night was its first in six tries. The Nationals are just 4-18 at Dodger Stadium since 2006.

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