Offense keeps quiet as Kershaw's win streak ends
Dodgers lefty strikes out nine in shortest outing since April
LOS ANGELES -- There was no way the Dodgers could keep winning at that dizzying rate, and they haven't.
They still have lead the National League West by a cushy 8 1/2 games, but they lost to the Cubs on Tuesday night, 3-2, with Clayton Kershaw on the mound. That's five Dodgers losses in the last 10 games, with a total of nine runs scored in the losses.
"I feel it's nothing more than a lull," said manager Don Mattingly. "I think we've got some guys that are a little tired. We've had some funny start times since we've been back. We've been a little bit run down. We'll be fine."
The team that played .840 ball for 50 games has been a .500 team since.
"We probably don't anticipate us winning 80 percent of our games," said Kershaw. "But at the same time, you don't ever think about losing either. I don't know if it was bound to happen or not. But you just have to come win tomorrow."
Hanley Ramirez had three hits and scored both runs while Yasiel Puig had a two-hit game, but the Dodgers couldn't score off Cubs All-Star starter Travis Wood until the sixth inning, and even then it was unearned. Ramirez led off with a single, went to second on Wood's wild pickoff attempt and scored on Juan Uribe's two-out single. Wood went seven innings and improved to 8-10.
Pedro Strop relieved Wood, and the Dodgers cut into the lead in the eighth. With one out, Ramirez singled, Mark Ellis was hit by a 96-mph fastball and Andre Ethier singled to score Ramirez. But pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker bounced into a double play to end the inning.
It was the Dodgers' first loss to the Cubs in six games this year and snapped an eight-game win streak against Chicago going back to last year.
"This is the hottest team, but I think for all these guys -- and especially the guys who were here last year, and myself and the coaching staff -- this is probably one of our most satisfying wins, that's for sure," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said.
Kershaw's three-game win streak ended, his record dipping to 13-8, although his MLB-leading ERA stayed at 1.72, as one of the two runs he allowed was unearned, and he took over the NL lead for strikeouts with 197. The 5 2/3 innings marked his shortest start since April 23 and snapped a string of 11 consecutive quality starts. He struck out nine, walked three and hit a batter.
He also reached 200 innings for the fourth consecutive season and he's three strikeouts short of 200 for the fourth consecutive season. "You're never going to have your best stuff every game," said Kershaw. "You have to figure out ways to get some guys out regardless. Tonight, just too many guys on base, too many walks, behind in the count. It just wasn't a great night."
Kershaw was almost knocked out of the game by a Cody Ransom line drive off his left ankle leading off the sixth inning, leaving Dodger Nation holding its collective breath.
After one practice pitch, Kershaw stayed in the game, but walked Darnell McDonald. He struck out Cole Gillespie with a bouncing curve that allowed Ransom to take third and then struck out Wood, but Starlin Castro singled to score Ransom and drive Kershaw from the game.
"It's all right. Top of the ankle," said Kershaw. "I think I was just trying to catch the ball. It wasn't painful or anything."
The crowd of 52,326 turned out on Rick Monday Bobblehead Night and pushed the season attendance past 3 million, making the Dodgers the first MLB team to do so this year, and putting them on pace to finish the season at 3.7 million. The Dodgers saluted their fans from the dugout during the seventh-inning stretch.
Kershaw had a first-inning workout, needing 29 pitches to escape a two-on, one-out jam without allowing a run by striking out Donnie Murphy and Junior Lake.
"They fought him pretty good," Mattingly said of the Cubs' approach against Kershaw. "Even on the strikeouts and outs, they fouled off a lot of balls. He wasn't quite as sharp as he's been."
The Cubs scored an unearned run in the third. Taking a page from the Kershaw playbook, Wood singled to lead off, only the second hit off Kershaw by a pitcher this year.
After Castro flied out, A.J. Ellis was flagged for catcher's interference on a swing by Darwin Barney, the error putting runners on first and second. Dioner Navarro, Kershaw's former batterymate, singled to center, scoring Wood and snapping Kershaw's scoreless-innings streak at 18.
"I knew I was Kershaw's personal catcher back in '11, but when you face a guy like that, he's got electric stuff, and to me, he's the best pitcher in the game," said Navarro. "I went with the game plan, which was to look for a fastball and don't miss it. I'm glad he threw me a fastball in that at-bat and I got a base hit."
Chicago scored an insurance run in the seventh off Ronald Belisario, who loaded the bases with no outs. Pinch-hitter Brian Bogusevic bounced into a double play as Navarro scored.