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Dominant Kershaw: 'I've proven that I'm healthy'

Lefty strikes out six over 68 pitches in second start since returning from DL
MLB.com

LOS ANGELES -- Considering the rate at which the Dodgers have smacked home runs this month, one could surmise they are beginning to look like themselves in the batter's box after a slow start to the season. But on Thursday, it was Los Angeles' ace who delivered as dominant a performance as he's given all season on the mound, one that left him and his club extremely encouraged.

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw tossed five innings, allowing one run on four hits in an 11-5 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. He struck out six batters and did not relinquish a walk during his second outing since being activated from the disabled list.

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LOS ANGELES -- Considering the rate at which the Dodgers have smacked home runs this month, one could surmise they are beginning to look like themselves in the batter's box after a slow start to the season. But on Thursday, it was Los Angeles' ace who delivered as dominant a performance as he's given all season on the mound, one that left him and his club extremely encouraged.

Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw tossed five innings, allowing one run on four hits in an 11-5 loss to the Cubs on Thursday. He struck out six batters and did not relinquish a walk during his second outing since being activated from the disabled list.

View Full Game Coverage

"I didn't see anything that was hampering [him] or laboring or anything," Dodgers catcher Austin Barnes said. "I thought he was [the] Kershaw I know."

Video: Dempster breaks down Kershaw's start on MLB Tonight

Kershaw came away pleased with his outing, deeming it a step towards achieving top form.

"Kept the pitch count down, didn't walk anybody, gave up a few leadoff hits which you can't do, and gave up that one hit with guys in scoring position that you always try to limit," Kershaw said. "But yeah, for the most part, there's definitely some things to be encouraged with today."

Prior to Thursday's game, manager Dave Roberts said Kershaw was targeting a five-inning outing around 75 pitches. He threw 68 total pitches, including 47 strikes.

Roberts came away very encouraged.

"Obviously, after a loss, a very positive thing for us going forward," Roberts said. "Clayton was efficient, got up and down five times. I thought the fastball had life [at] 92, 93 mph. Good command, the curveball was sharp and his slider was good. So I think it's only going to get better. Talking to the training staff, [pitching coach Rick Honeycutt] afterward, Clayton felt good where his body was at."

Video: CHC@LAD: Kershaw pulls the string on Baez for K

Kershaw's fastball averaged 91.7 mph and peaked at 92.9 mph. During his three-inning start against the Mets last week, he pumped fastballs at 91.2 and 91.7 mph, suggesting his latest showing was an improvement as he takes it slow while recovering from a lower back strain.

"When you have your horse throw the way he did -- five innings and felt really good after," said Roberts, "and to know that we can build him up and build on this start, that's probably the most important thing for our club. This loss doesn't feel good, but I think the bigger picture is very good for us."

The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner left the contest prior to the sixth inning, in line for a win with the Dodgers holding a 3-1 advantage. Right-hander Walker Buehler, who was activated from the disabled list prior to the contest, relinquished a pair of runs, however, keeping Kershaw's season record at 1-4 with a 2.84 ERA.

Kershaw expressed the desire to pitch even deeper into his next outing.

"I've proven that I'm healthy," Kershaw said. "So now next time out I'm sure the restriction should hopefully be pretty close to off. [I'm going to] get ready and just try to beat an opponent."

When asked about Kershaw's competitiveness and desire to be on the mound, Barnes, whose locker is located to the left of the pitcher, was nonchalant, mentioning Kershaw sets the standard in the clubhouse.

"That's who he is," Barnes said.

The Dodgers certainly hope that's who Kershaw will continue to be the rest of the season.

Kaelen Jones is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Los Angeles Dodgers, Clayton Kershaw