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LA thrilled as Kershaw returns with ace form

'He looked like he didn't really skip a beat,' Utley says after 1-0 win
MLB.com @kengurnick

SAN DIEGO -- Clayton Kershaw came off the disabled list in 2014 and won the MVP and Cy Young Awards. He came off the disabled list last September, posted a 1.69 ERA that month and nearly got the Dodgers to the World Series.

No surprise that he would return from five weeks on the shelf with a six-inning masterpiece Friday night, stopping the Padres on two infield hits in a 1-0 win that halted the Dodgers' longest losing streak in more than a year at five.

Full Game Coverage

SAN DIEGO -- Clayton Kershaw came off the disabled list in 2014 and won the MVP and Cy Young Awards. He came off the disabled list last September, posted a 1.69 ERA that month and nearly got the Dodgers to the World Series.

No surprise that he would return from five weeks on the shelf with a six-inning masterpiece Friday night, stopping the Padres on two infield hits in a 1-0 win that halted the Dodgers' longest losing streak in more than a year at five.

Full Game Coverage

"It's nice to have him back and feeling healthy," said Chase Utley, whose clutch, two-out RBI single in the sixth inning off Dinelson Lamet decided the duel. "He looked like he didn't really skip a beat, to be honest with you. We're excited to have him back."

Video: LAD@SD: Utley lines an RBI single to center field

The Dodgers led the National League West by 10 1/2 games when Kershaw strained his lower back. They doubled the lead to 21 games without him into last weekend, then saw five games of the lead shaved off when the starting rotation sagged before he restored order.

With Alex Wood also expected to come off the disabled list on Sunday, the Dodgers will spend early September locking up a postseason berth -- the Magic Number to clinch one is five -- while tuning up for October, now knowing that their ace is back.

Video: LAD@SD: Kershaw on return from DL, win over Padres

He's 16-2 (the best for a Dodger since Don Newcombe started 1955 at 16-1) with a league-leading 1.95 ERA. He hasn't lost in his last 16 starts (a franchise record) and neither has the team. Kershaw has a 12-game win streak, the longest since Burt Hooton in 1975. Kershaw now is 17-6 with a 1.94 ERA in his career against San Diego. The Dodgers have won his last 12 starts against San Diego and he's won eight of those.

"I didn't expect him to be that sharp, but with him you can never underestimate him," said manager Dave Roberts. "He was on point, competitive, efficient."

Video: LAD@SD: Kershaw, bullpen silence Padres' bats in win

Roberts hoped for Kershaw to go five innings or throw 75 pitches. He went six in 70 and Roberts said 90 pitches will be the likely target in his next outing.

Kershaw has been saying he was ready several weeks ago and Roberts concedes the club was "slow-playing" Kershaw's return, in part because of the luxury of a huge lead, in part preferring to err on the side of caution rather than let him rush back and risk re-injury.

"You never truly know until you get big league hitters out," said Kershaw, who also singled. "Any time you haven't done something in a long time, in the back of your head there's probably a doubt you can do it. Tonight was definitely a step in the right direction. There shouldn't be much of a pitch count for the next one. I'm getting as close to normal as you can get. Any time you can put up zeros and give your team a chance is great. We needed a win and Chase got the big hit and we pulled it out."

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

 

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw