So even though Kershaw (2-4) was less than ecstatic with his performance, a win is a win, and anything is better than being on the disabled list.
"I made some mistakes, but thankfully, the way the guys are swinging the bats, they weren't really noticed," said Kershaw, who allowed two runs on four hits over six innings. He didn't issue a walk, but had only two strikeouts (opposing pitcher Ivan Nova both times). His fastball was what is now a customary 90-92 mph.
"I think I only struck out the pitcher. I'll take outs any way I can get them, but there probably are some things I can work on if they're getting two-strike swings like that," he said. "My slider didn't have the bite at the end. Ground balls are great, but sometimes in situations you're going to need strikeouts and I can work on that. I felt good and for the most part I was efficient. I'll take it tonight."
So will his manager.
"Clayton accomplished what we wanted," said Dave Roberts. "Six innings, low pitch count, very efficient. The fifth and sixth innings were the best for me. He got into a groove. The curveball started to spin and finish better, some good sliders. Fastball velocity stayed consistent and the ball came out well."
Kershaw came into the game with a limit of six innings and 90 pitches (he made 74, 56 for strikes). Roberts said "the reins are off" for Kershaw's next start.
The six innings were the longest in his four starts since May 1. After that May 1 start, Kershaw spent two stints on the disabled list for left biceps tendinitis and a lower back strain. He came into the Pirates start with two losses and four no-decisions since his previous win, his longest victory drought since 2013.
The two runs Kershaw allowed were clones, doubles by Elias Diaz in the second and fourth innings followed by David Freese RBI singles. Freese is 9-for-26 (.346) with seven RBIs against Kershaw.
"Obviously his velo's just down a little bit, but he's still got that cutter. He works it," Freese said of Kershaw. "He's just a guy that locates. You can sense when he's out there that he trusts every pitch he's about to throw. I think that's what makes him really good. Then he paints. He's a bulldog. He's a guy you want out there wearing the same jersey, for sure."
Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.