Kershaw matched his career high with eight innings and was every bit as dominant as the Rockies' Ubaldo Jimenez, who entered the game with a win in each of his six starts, a 0.87 ERA and a no-hitter already thrown on the season.
"You're sort of a little shy about saying that Kershaw outpitched him, because Jimenez pitched one [heck] of a game today," manager Joe Torre said. "In order to beat a pitcher like that, you have to be able to just stay with him."
After allowing just two hits and three walks, Kershaw told Torre he wanted to try to go the distance as the Dodgers batted in the bottom of the eighth inning. Kershaw had retired the last nine in a row and struck out nine in the game.
"I said, 'I'm sure you do, nice going,'" Torre said.
It was, in so many ways, the start that the Dodgers, Kershaw and Torre all needed.
Kershaw's last outing, against the Brewers on Tuesday, was the worst of his career. He was knocked out after just 1 1/3 innings and was charged seven earned runs, inflating his ERA by nearly two runs.
Torre had spent most of Sunday morning's meeting with the media defending his rotation, which has put the Dodgers in deep holes of late and features just three regular starters, including an underperforming Kershaw and Chad Billingsley.
After the Dodgers were shut out for the fifth time this season on Saturday -- by a pitcher making his third career start, no less -- Sunday was the first shutout in their favor this season. And with the win, the last-place Dodgers (14-17) finished their 10-game homestand with a 6-4 record. They're 6-3 against National League West opponents this season, and their next two series are also in-divison.
"So far we've held up well in our division," Torre said. "Now that we're playing in our division and we continue to do that, maybe we can get on a little roll. That's what we need to do."
Facing a pitcher like Jimenez, Kershaw said, he knew putting up zeros would be particularly important -- even though Torre stressed after the game it can be dangerous for a pitcher to consider his mound mate. Both pitchers were brilliant, and it showed most against their opponents' third-place hitters.
Andre Ethier entered the game with a nine-game hitting streak, a big league-best .571 average in May and .394 average on the season, also a Major League-high. Todd Helton, in his 14th season, has finished with more walks than strikeouts for the last eight seasons and entered the game a career .327 hitter.
Ethier, 0-for-3, was struck out by Jimenez in all three of his at-bats. Helton fared no better against Kershaw.
"He's a Hall of Fame hitter," Kershaw said. "He's been one of the best for a really long time. With that said, you know I think I got ahead of him all three times. It's the same with every hitter, you get ahead he's just got to hit your pitch. Mainly I just threw some fastballs to him. It doesn't happen a lot, he doesn't strike out a lot. It was just an off-day for him."
"Helton doesn't strikeout three times in a ballgame, I don't care if you're ambidextrous," Torre said.
Kershaw struggled, as he is wont to do, only in the first inning, when he allowed two walks and a bunt single. He got out of it with a strikeout looking of Ian Stewart on a 3-2 inside fastball. He threw a fastball close to the outside corner on 2-2 that was called a ball.
"He was pitching against the best pitcher in baseball I guess up to this point and he went out there and threw 30 pitches in the first inning and pitches eight innings," Torre said. "That's pretty good commentary right there."
Jimenez, who went seven innings, allowed two hits, four walks and struck out five, pitched more than well enough to win. The only run he allowed came in the third inning.
Leading off the inning, Blake DeWitt took a high changeup from Jimenez down the right-field line, and DeWitt stretched the play into a double.
"It was a good pitch to hit and you got to be aggressive against a guy like that," he said. "I saw [right fielder Ryan Spilborghs'] back turned to me as he ran to catch the ball, and I took off."
Jamey Carroll followed with a grounder that went off Jimenez's glove and was redirected into shallow right field. Rockies second baseman Clint Barmes had been moving up the middle and couldn't get back to his right in time to cut the ball off. DeWitt saw the play unfold and scored without a play at the plate.
"My glove, it betrayed me. It got me by surprise. I thought it was softer," Jimenez said.
The Dodgers didn't score another run until the eighth inning, when Russell Martin, using a pink bat to commemorate Mother's Day, hit a solo homer to left for his third of the season off reliever Matt Daley. Martin was 1-for-4.
Jonathan Broxton worked around two hits in the ninth inning for his third save.
The Dodgers cost themselves other opportunities with poor baserunning: Manny Ramirez, 0-for-1 with a walk in his second game back, was caught stealing when he thought a hit-and-run sign was put on in the second inning, and Matt Kemp overslid second base on a steal attempt in the fourth.
The Rockies made a baserunning mistake, too, when Eric Young, the last batter to reach against Kershaw, was picked off at first base to end the fifth inning. After the game, Martin said he thought he had never seen Kershaw better.
"He was getting strike one early, especially after that first inning," Martin said. "This is probably the best I'd ever seen him, honestly."
Evan Drellich is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less