LOS ANGELES -- No Manny Ramirez, Andre Ethier or Rafael Furcal? No problem for the Dodgers. Left-hander Clayton Kershaw threw his third straight gem and the trio of replacements for the club's injured stars -- Garret Anderson, Xavier Paul and Jamey Carroll -- combined to go 4-for-10 with three RBIs to lead the Dodgers to a 4-1 win over the National League West-rival Padres on Thursday at Dodger Stadium to return to just one game behind the division leaders.
Kershaw allowed just one run, scattering seven hits over 7 1/3 innings, while striking out seven and walking two. For Kershaw, who improved to 4-2 with a 3.23 ERA, it marked his third straight start of going at least seven innings while allowing one run or less and registering at least seven strikeouts. His recent string of success has come after he allowed seven runs in just 1 1/3 innings against the Brewers on May 4. But since that game, Kershaw is 3-0 with an 0.81 ERA and the Dodgers have won 12 of their last 15 games. "I'm just getting more outs, that's the easy answer," said Kershaw. "I've been throwing more strikes and making hitters beat me instead of beating myself." His run has certainly impressed Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who thinks the 22-year-old Kershaw has been improving each time he takes the mound. "He gets better, and what I mean by that is he just repeats the last time," Torre said. "He knows his stuff now. He just looks a little more relaxed and is really able to channel his enthusiasm." Kershaw, though, didn't exactly channel his enthusiasm in the fifth inning with two runners on and Padres catcher Yorvit Torrealba at the plate. Kershaw thought he struck out Torrealba on a check swing on a 1-2 slider and began walking to the dugout before realizing first-base umpire Mike Muchlinski signaled that Torrealba didn't go around for strike three. Kershaw then collected himself and bounced back to strike out Torrealba two pitches later on another slider to end the inning and threat. "I probably showed too much emotion there," Kershaw admitted after the game. "I was a little mad at myself for doing that. I'm glad to come back and get the strikeout, but it's unfortunate because I don't like showing up anybody like that." The Dodgers' offense, meanwhile, broke a 1-1 tie with three runs in the sixth inning against Padres right-hander Kevin Correia, who allowed four runs on seven hits over six innings. Matt Kemp opened the inning with a single and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw from Correia before moving to third on a single by James Loney. Kemp then scored on a sacrifice fly by Anderson before Blake DeWitt was intentionally walked with two outs to get to Carroll, who made the Padres pay with an RBI single into right field that also advanced DeWitt to third. That was crucial because he scored the inning's third run on a wild pitch by Correia with Kershaw at the plate. "I wasn't really looking forward throwing to him in that situation 'cause he's a guy who can do something like that," Correia said. "I made a good pitch and he didn't hit it well. I'm not a big fan of the guy at the moment." Carroll also helped the Dodgers strike first in the second inning with a sacrifice fly to score Casey Blake, who reached third base on a double by DeWitt after leading off the inning with a single. The Padres got on the board in the third inning when Will Venable's single scored Everth Cabrera, who hit a leadoff double. Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton worked the ninth inning for his eighth save this season and exorcised some demons in the process by striking out former Phillies pinch-hitter Matt Stairs -- who memorably hit a two-run homer off Broxton in Game 4 of the 2008 National League Championship Series -- to end the game. "I went out there and didn't think about closing," Broxton said. "I just thought about getting three outs. It just happens to be the last three." The win, coupled with the Giants' 8-7 loss to the D-backs on Thursday, moved Los Angeles past San Francisco in the NL West standings and just one game back of San Diego entering Interleague Play on Friday against the Tigers. "If we play our game and pitch the way we have the last couple weeks, we're going to hold our own," Torre said. "We didn't play well early on because of our pitching."
Rhett Bollinger is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.