Clayton Kershaw out-dueled Tim Lincecum for an amazing fourth time this season on Tuesday night as the Los Angeles Dodgers beat the San Francisco Giants 2-1 in the opener of a three-game series at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw allowed just one run while pitching into the eighth inning, and picked up his 20th victory of the season.
Kershaw is the first 20-game winner for the Dodgers since Ramon Martinez went 20-6 in 1990.
The Giants aren't officially for sale, but I'm fairly certain Kershaw has the deed to the team because he owns them. In six starts against the hated rivals from the north this season, Kershaw was 5-0 with a 1.07 ERA, with 8 walks and 49 strikeouts. The Dodgers' win also dealt a severe blow to the Giants' playoff hopes, and snapped an eight-game losing streak for San Francisco.
Asked about hurting the playoff hopes of his rivals, Kershaw dryly replied, "It's a shame," per Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times.
The Dodgers scored a run with three consecutive singles in the first inning, then added another when Jerry Sands hit a home run off Lincecum in the second inning. Sands has 16 hits in his last 30 at-bats.
The Giants scored in the eighth inning when catcher Chris Stewart hit a home run over the left field wall to cut the Dodgers' lead to 2-1. Two walks later, Kershaw gave way to Kenley Jansen. Both Pablo Sandoval and Carlos Beltran were no match for Jansen, who struck them both out on seven pitches total, ending the threat.
Javy Guerra pitched a scoreless ninth inning for his 19th save of the season.
The National League Cy Young Award is still up in the air with eight days remaining in the regular season, but Kershaw has a strong case. He leads the National League with 242 strikeouts, is tied for the NL lead with 20 wins, and leads the majors with a 2.27 ERA.
Cy Young or not, Kershaw has a rightful claim to a spot as one of the very best pitchers in baseball. For the last time at Dodger Stadium this season, Kershaw sent the fans home with a smile.
For more on Tuesday's game, be sure to read True Blue LA.