SAN DIEGO – In a tumultuous season surrounded by off-the-field controversy and without much team success, Clayton Kershaw has been a bright spot for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Kershaw pitched a complete game to win his fifth straight start, leading the Dodgers to a 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series.
Ignoring bankruptcy claims by the team, the ongoing divorce of its owners, and fourth place in the NL West standings, Kershaw (13-4) tied his career high for wins in a season and moved into a tie with Roy Halladay and Ian Kennedy for the league lead in victories.
"Wins are wins," Kershaw said. "It's tough to be in fourth place, and it's tough to not really be in the hunt of things right now. At the same time, our mentality really doesn't change. Whether the results are there or not, it's out of our control."
The All-Star left-hander allowed two runs and six hits, striking out four to add to his league-leading total of 182. He threw 108 pitches, 67 for strikes, walked two and collected his fourth complete game of the season and fifth of his career.
"They were swinging early," Kershaw said. "I fell behind in some counts, but I was fortunate to get some outs with those counts. After walking the first batter of the game on four straight, that was pretty awful, I deserved to give up that run. From there I felt all right after that."
Matt Kemp, the Dodgers' offensive standout this season, doubled, tripled, scored two runs, and drove in his league-leading 83rd run of the season.
"When Kershaw gets the ball, he's liable to pitch a complete game every time," Kemp said. "We want to get him runs, because we know he's going to always keep us in the game. He's doing a heck of a job throwing strikes and getting hitters out. He has become a really great pitcher."
Jamey Carroll had two hits, two stolen bases and scored a run for the Dodgers, while Dee Gordon drove in a run.
Los Angeles capitalized on two poor fielding plays by Padres starter Cory Luebke (3-6) in the fifth. Luebke fielded a bunt attempt by Kershaw that appeared to be rolling into foul territory then failed to throw out Kershaw at first.
One play later, Luebke threw wide to home on a comebacker, allowing Carroll to slide around the tag. Kershaw later scored on a sacrifice fly by Casey Blake, who had two hits, to give the Dodgers a 4-1 lead.
"I was frustrated more than anything," Luebke said. "I let some decision-making kind of turn the outcome of the game, and that was more frustrating than anything. The bunt and the throw home and fielding the bunt, I held it a little long and that's on me. That kind of turned the events of the game."
Orlando Hudson's solo homer, his third, in the seventh brought the Padres within 4-2. Cameron Maybin walked to lead off the game and scored San Diego's first run.
Between those innings, Kershaw mostly dominated the Padres, scattering three hits before Hudson drove the first pitch of the inning into the San Diego bullpen beyond the center field fence.
"We've seen him develop before our eyes the last three years," San Diego manager Bud Black said of Kershaw. "He has come into his own. I've seen this year an All-Star pitcher, All-Star caliber no doubt. He leads the league in strikeouts, and you can tell his confidence is growing over his service time."
Luebke pitched 7 1-3 innings in his third straight loss, yielding five runs and 10 hits. He struck out two and did not issue a walk.
"He's throwing the ball fine," Black said. "Corey's not a secret any more. He's made a number of starts, he's been in the big leagues the entire season, so teams are getting multiple looks at him. He'll continue to make progress, he's going to be fine."
Notes: Dodgers RHP Rubby De La Rosa has a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his left elbow, MRI results revealed Monday. He will undergo further evaluation from doctors to determine whether surgery is required. Erik Hamren pitched a scoreless eighth in his major league debut for the Padres. He was recalled from Double-A San Antonio when San Diego traded reliever Mike Adams to Texas on Sunday.