Clayton Kershaw delivers much-needed strong start in Dodgers' win over Brewers

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Milwaukee Brewers Wednesday, May 10, 2023, in Milwaukee. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Clayton Kershaw of the Dodgers pitches in the first inning against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday. Kershaw gave up one run in seven innings to earn his sixth victory. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

The Dodgers bullpen picked up the rotation Tuesday night, covering the final eight innings of a win over the Milwaukee Brewers after starter Noah Syndergaard departed because of a deep cut on the index finger of his pitching hand.

Clayton Kershaw returned the favor Wednesday, giving an overworked relief corps a much-needed respite with a dominant, seven-inning start to lead the Dodgers to an 8-1 victory and a series win at American Family Field.

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The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner gave up one run and five hits, struck out eight and walked none to improve to 6-2 with a 2.36 earned-run average in eight starts.

Kershaw threw 70 of 92 pitches for strikes and first-pitch strikes to 19 of 24 batters. He induced 18 swinging strikes, including a first-inning slider he threw past Owen Miller for his 2,856th career strikeout, moving him past Jim Bunning and into 21st place on baseball’s all-time strikeout list.

Most importantly, the 35-year-old left-hander left only two innings for a bullpen that had three, maybe four relievers available to pitch. The only reliever who didn’t pitch Tuesday night — Wander Suero — got the final six outs Wednesday.

“There’s not many more words you can really say about a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Dodgers first baseman Freddie Freeman, who snapped out of a three-for-21 slump with a solo homer and a two-run single, said of Kershaw.


“Being a fan of baseball, to get to watch that every five days, it's special, it’s just a treat to watch. And when you need him most, like after [Tuesday’s] bullpen day, he stepped up again.”

Kershaw was backed by a solid defense that turned 6-4-3 double plays in the second and sixth innings. Other than William Contreras’ homer off the left-field foul pole to lead off the fourth, the Brewers advanced only one runner to second base.

Dodgers' Freddie Freeman is congratulated by manager Dave Roberts after homering against the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday.
First baseman Freddie Freeman is congratulated by manager Dave Roberts after hitting a home run in the fourth inning for the Dodgers' first run Wednesday. (Morry Gash / Associated Press)

Could manager Dave Roberts imagine a better guy to send to the mound when it was imperative the Dodgers get a lengthy start?

“No, no,” Roberts said. “There are other guys who are just as talented around the league, but as a guy who can be as efficient too, that's what we needed. … Clayton was great. He was crisp. He worked ahead. Everything was on point. For him to get through seven, it reset [our bullpen] going into the off day and finished off a great road trip.”


While one veteran left-hander was nearly untouchable, another — Brewers starter Wade Miley — was rocked for seven runs and six hits in five innings.

The Dodgers entered Tuesday night’s game with a .193 batting average and .671 on-base-plus-slugging percentage against left-handers, compared to a .244 average and .806 OPS against right-handers.

But they roughed up Brewers left-hander Eric Lauer on Tuesday and Miley on Wednesday, collecting 11 runs and 10 hits, including five homers, in 8⅔ innings against them, and they’re scheduled to face another left-hander in Blake Snell when they open a three-game series against the San Diego Padres in Dodger Stadium on Friday night.

Miley retired the first 10 batters he faced before Freeman and Will Smith hit back-to-back homers in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. Contreras cut the lead to 2-1 with his homer in the fourth, but the Dodgers scored twice in the fifth and blew the game open with a four-run sixth.


Miguel Rojas, who had two hits and two runs, sparked the fifth-inning rally with a one-out single. Trayce Thompson, mired in an 0-for-26 slump dating to April 17, and No. 9 hitter Austin Barnes walked to load the bases.

Miley got Mookie Betts to pop to first base for the second out, but Freeman lined a two-run single to right for a 4-1 lead.

Miguel Vargas drove a two-run homer into the second deck in left field in the sixth — giving him two-run shots in back-to-back games — and David Peralta (RBI single) and Betts (sacrifice fly) drove in the final two runs.

Vargas is batting .233 with four homers, five doubles, a triple and 16 RBIs in his last 17 games after hitting .204 with no homers, three doubles, a triple and three RBIs in his first 19 games.


“There's a little bit more aggressiveness with the swings when the ball is in the strike zone,” Roberts said of the rookie. “Even some calls today that didn't go his way, he didn't let it affect the at-bat or the ensuing at-bat. That just speaks to some maturity there.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.