Los Angeles (15-22) has been one of the biggest disappointments of the early season as rumors continue to swirl about manager Don Mattingly being on the hot seat. His team has suffered two losing streaks of at least six games and hasn't beaten any club other than NL-worst Miami all month after falling 6-2 to Washington in Monday's series opener.
However, the team's .223 average with runners in scoring position has contributed to it ranking 28th in the majors with 129 runs scored, and Kershaw (3-2, 1.62 ERA) has felt the brunt of that lack of production.
Kershaw has been especially dominant lately going 1-0 with a 0.82 ERA and 21 strikeouts over his last three starts, but the Dodgers have lost his last two while scoring three runs combined.
The left-hander's 2.10 run support average is the worst in baseball among qualifiers, as Los Angeles has scored just 13 times in his 55 2-3 innings on the hill."Every time he steps on the mound, it should be a win," catcher A.J. Ellis told the team's official website. "He's the premier pitcher in all of baseball, and we're letting those games get away that should be wins."
Kershaw allowed two runs in eight innings of a 3-2 win April 27, 2012, the last time he faced the Nationals, though he has a 4.32 ERA in six career starts against them.
Ryan Zimmerman is 4 for 9 off Kershaw and is coming off a three-RBI performance Monday as Washington (21-17) won for the eighth time in 11 games.
It's unclear if the Nationals will have Harper in the lineup for this contest after he received 11 stitches near his chin due to running full speed into the outfield wall in the fifth inning.
Harper, who was playing his second game after missing two with an ingrown toenail, suffered a cut - but no concussion - and did not return."I would rather him not go all-out into the wall," Zimmerman said. "If you play that hard every day, there is something to be said about that. He's going to play a long time and you have to learn to take care of your body. As he grows, he'll learn what to do and what not to do."
Dan Haren (4-3, 5.17) will get the start for Washington and has posted a 3.15 ERA while winning three straight outings. He beat Detroit 5-4 on Thursday and has been much better of late after going 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA in his first four starts.
The right-hander allowed five runs in five innings but earned an 8-5 win the last time he faced the Dodgers on June 22, and he's 6-5 with a 3.55 ERA in 16 career starts against them.
Washington's victory in the series opener ended a five-game skid at Dodger Stadium.
|Jerry Hairston Jr.||13||.385||5||0||3||0||4||.467||.929||.462|
|May 11, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Ingrown toenail|
|May 10, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Strained right hamstring|
|May 03, 2013||Jayson Werth||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 18, 2013||Ryan Zimmerman||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|April 18, 2013||Ryan Zimmerman||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|April 16, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Flu-like symptoms|
|Los Angeles Dodgers|
|May 08, 2013||Adrian Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Left game - neck|
|May 06, 2013||Jerry Hairston Jr.||Day-to-Day||Strained groin|
|May 06, 2013||Jerry Hairston Jr.||15-Day DL||Strained left groin|
|May 04, 2013||Hanley Ramirez||15-Day DL||Strained left hamstring|
|May 03, 2013||Adrian Gonzalez||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|April 30, 2013||Ted Lilly||15-Day DL||Strained right rib cage|
LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Clayton Kershaw wanted to give the Dodgers' tired bullpen a rest. He did just that.
Kershaw scattered five hits, struck out 11 and pitched 8 2-3 innings in the Dodgers' 2-0 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
The victory was Kershaw's first since April 28, when he beat the Milwaukee Brewers by a 2-0 margin, and it was his most impressive since his shutout of the San Francisco Giants on opening day.
"Clayton was pretty special from the beginning," Dodger manager Don Mattingly said. "He was rolling right away. He seemed to be on a mission."
Kershaw (4-2) was pulled after Adam LaRoche singled with two outs in the ninth on his career-high 132nd pitch, most by a major league starter since Detroit ace Justin Verlander also threw 132 on Aug. 6 last year against the Yankees, according to STATS. Los Angeles' bullpen had to go six innings on Monday.
The Nationals got an early jump on Kershaw but were unable to take advantage of it. Ryan Zimmerman and Ian Desmond singled with two outs in the first inning, and LaRoche walked to load the bases. However, Kershaw struck out Tyler Moore to end the inning.
"The big thing for me was that first inning," Kershaw said. "I threw 29 pitches so I really had to fight that pitch count and go deep in the game. We needed a deep game and fortunately I got the pitch count back under control."
The first out of the game, a strikeout of Danny Espinosa , gave Kershaw 1,000 career innings.
"He's an unbelievable pitcher, the best in the game in my opinion," Desmond said.
Nationals pitcher Dan Haren (4-4) was looking to secure his fourth consecutive victory but a troublesome third inning turned out to be costly.
The Dodgers got runners at first and second with two outs in the second inning but Haren worked his way out of the jam by getting No. 8 batter Dee Gordon to hit a fly ball to right field for the third out.
The Dodgers also got multiple runners on base in the third inning but were better prepared to cash in. Kershaw was hit by a pitch to start the inning and Matt Kemp added a one-out single. Both runners advanced on a wild pitch and scored on cleanup hitter Andre Ethier 's sharp single to center.
"Danny made some good pitches but he had some pitches hit and I think he's trying to do too much," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "It's kind of been like that the whole year. He hasn't been himself."
Kershaw kept the Nationals in check after the first inning, retiring 23 of the last 26 batters he faced after the first inning. Zimmerman had three of the Nationals' five hits.
"Zimmerman, I can't get that guy out," Kershaw said. "He owns me so I have to figure that out."
Zimmerman wished he knew the secret.
"He's obviously one of the best pitchers in the game," he said. "I guess you just have to kind of keep it simple. I wish I knew what I was doing so I could tell everyone."
Zimmerman was finally retired with a fly ball to deep right field in the ninth inning.
NOTES: Nationals OF Bryce Harper sat out after running headfirst into the right-field wall while chasing a fly ball Monday night. The violent collision left the 20-year-old slugger with 11 stitches in his chin and soreness all over his body. He is expected to miss the series finale Wednesday night, too. . Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth (right hamstring) was scheduled to make two rehabs starts, beginning Tuesday at Potomac, before joining the team in San Diego on Thursday. . Dodger pitcher Zack Greinke will be activated from the disabled list and start the series finale against the Nationals on Wednesday. Greinke was placed on the disabled list on April 12 after breaking his clavicle in a fight with San Diego Padres outfielder Carlos Quentin . . Outfielder Matt Kemp batted second in the Dodgers' batting order for the first time this season, and ran his hitting streak to 13 games. It's the first time he's batted from that spot since the 2010 season. . Pitcher Ted Lilly (strained right rib cage) is scheduled to make a rehab start on Wednesday for Rancho Cucamonga, the Dodgers' Single-A team.