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Joc's milestone homer leads way for Dodgers

Dodgers' offense helps Kershaw best Padres' rookie ace
@kengurnick
May 15, 2019

LOS ANGELES -- The radar gun shows what Clayton Kershaw no longer has. But what he does have is the support of an offense so relentless and explosive that he doesn’t need to be virtually untouchable to be nearly unbeatable. Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Padres illustrated how the

LOS ANGELES -- The radar gun shows what Clayton Kershaw no longer has. But what he does have is the support of an offense so relentless and explosive that he doesn’t need to be virtually untouchable to be nearly unbeatable.

Tuesday night’s 6-3 win over the Padres illustrated how the Dodgers’ offense in general, and the slugging of Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson in particular, mean Kershaw (3-0) doesn’t have to be the greatest to be plenty good enough.

Box score

Bellinger's 15th homer was his first since April 28 and increased his RBI total to 40, which leads MLB. Pederson slugged his 13th homer of the season and 100th of his career. Both homers were two-run shots in the fourth inning off San Diego rookie Chris Paddack, and the Dodgers added insurance runs after doubles by Corey Seager and Max Muncy.

“I didn’t know it was the 100th when I hit it, but it did help the team win a ballgame, so it was pretty cool,” said Pederson, who has more home runs than singles (10). He is the 29th Dodger to reach the century mark.

“Every time he’s in the box he’s a threat,” manager Dave Roberts said of Pederson. “Credit to our guys and the game plan.

"The challenge a lot of times against guys with good stuff, the tendency is to get out of the at-bat quickly, because you don't want to get deep into the count for fear of the stuff. But for us to not panic and run counts and get the pitch count up, says a lot about our guys. Usually it's J.T. [Justin Turner] and Muncy doing it, but now it's up and down our lineup guys are doing that."

As for Kershaw, the best pitcher of his generation outpitched one of the best rookie pitchers of 2019. Kershaw allowed three runs in seven innings, while the offense chased Paddack before he finished five innings. Kershaw is 19-6 with a 2.03 ERA against San Diego in his career.

When Kershaw was at his best from 2013-16, he compiled a 1.88 ERA, but the Dodgers averaged 4.25 runs per game. After five starts this year, he has a 3.40 ERA, but the offense is averaging 5.3 runs per game.

“You’re not always going to have your best stuff, you’re going to give up home runs at times, but that’s the beauty of being on such a good team -- the way we’re going, we’re going to score runs,” said Kershaw. “It’s just a matter of time, so you just got to stay in it the best you can. One, two, three runs -- we’ve got a good chance to win a game.”

Back in those Cy Young years, so much was expected of Kershaw, and so much was delivered. This club is better balanced and there is more team margin for error, even if Kershaw’s reduced velocity -- his fastball averaged less than 90 mph in this game -- has left him personally with less margin for error against hitters like Manny Machado and Franmil Reyes, who both homered off him.

Paddack (3-2) was chased after 4 2/3 innings, having been worked by the Dodgers hitters for 92 pitches.

“Up and down our lineup we took good at-bats tonight,” said Roberts. “Muncy worked a walk [before Bellinger’s home run]. J.T. had a good situational at-bat [sacrifice fly] and Bellinger got the run in [with a groundout].”

Paddack had allowed only two home runs all season and no more than three runs in any of seven previous starts, but he allowed two homers and four runs (one earned) in the third inning alone.

“Credit to their offense tonight,” Paddack said. “Credit to the Dodgers. That's a great team over there, and they beat me.”

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.