"I don't do it," shortstop Rafael Furcal said Saturday night after Kershaw threw seven scoreless innings in the Dodgers' 5-2 win over Houston.
"You can't do that," said outfielder Matt Kemp, who drove in two runs and scored another on a heads-up baserunning play. "He's getting better every start. No, sir, you can't do that."
"Not a chance. Never. Why would you?" catcher Russell Martin said. "I mean, if I'm a GM, to trade a young guy who's inexpensive, that makes no sense. If I'm the other team, sure I'd want him, but I don't think he's on the block."
Kershaw can't be now that, at age 21, he's the Dodgers' most reliable starter. Kershaw, 8-5, allowed the Astros only two hits and lowered his ERA to 2.95. He hasn't lost since June 10 and is 5-0 in the seven starts since, allowing three earned runs in 42 2/3 innings (0.63) while the Dodgers have gone 7-0.
Kershaw acknowledged the rumors, but it hasn't been a distraction on or off the field.
"I like it here," he said. "Every time this year, somebody says something. I guess it's a good thing to be wanted by another team. I take that as a compliment. Whatever happens, happens, but the rumors don't bother me."
Kershaw didn't sound bothered when asked about being lifted for a pinch-hitter in the seventh inning after reaching 103 pitches, even though he retired the last eight batters faced and he considers a pitch count that prevents him from a complete game as unnecessary.
"I'm glad I got through seven, especially the way our bullpen's having to work sometimes," he said. "It's always my goal to get through seven. That's the way I approach things. If I can get through seven innings, 100 pitches, I'm happy to do that. One of these days, let's make it eight."
"If we send him out for the eighth, all of a sudden it's 120," said manager Joe Torre, who was celebrating his 69th birthday. "If he was under 100, we would have sent him back out. He's in a good place and we felt with a five-run lead, the bullpen could do it. It did. It was a little hairy, but it did."
Nonetheless, the priority for management has become adding a reliever as much as a starter, even though Hong-Chih Kuo moved closer to a return with a scoreless but eventful (two hits) inning for Class A Inland Empire.
Houston celebrated Kershaw's removal with a two-run eighth inning off James McDonald and it should have scored more, as Jeff Keppinger appeared to beat Hudson's throw to first after Hudson booted his grounder. But umpire Casey Moser called Keppinger out and then ejected Houston manager Cecil Cooper for arguing.
Jonathan Broxton came on in the ninth to make his first appearance since getting shoved around in Milwaukee eight days ago and receiving a cortisone shot for nerve pain in his right big toe. He loaded the bases on a sharp infield single and a pair of walks but also struck out the side for his 21st save.
"It was more rust," Torre said of Broxton's wildness. "He didn't feel anything."
The Dodgers gave Kershaw a first-inning lead. Furcal led off against Mike Hampton with a single, Hudson followed with a sinking liner that left fielder Carlos Lee played into an RBI triple and Hudson scored on Kemp's RBI single. Hudson went 3-for-4 and is 9-for-14 in his past four games.
The Dodgers added three runs in the sixth, the final one to be seen on blooper reels for years to come. After Mark Loretta singled home Casey Blake, Hampton was so angry he tried to slam the ball into his glove but missed the glove. Kemp scored from third and Loretta advanced to second while Hampton chased down the ball in foul territory.
With the win, the Dodgers remained the only team this season to avoid a three-game losing streak.