Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

LOS ANGELES – Each time Clayton Kershaw takes the mound at Dodger Stadium, the public-address system cranks up the same lyrics: “Toni-i-ight/We are young.” Each time, it sounds a little less like wishful thinking.

Thursday, Kershaw took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of the Dodgers’ 5-1 victory over the Arizona Diamondbacks. He didn’t allow a run and lowered his earned-run average to 1.50, the third-lowest in baseball. It was the fourth consecutive start in which Kershaw has allowed one run or fewer, something he hasn’t done since the 2015 season.

The game was closer than the final score indicated. Ultimately it was another anticlimactic win for the Dodgers. They maintained baseball’s best record (28-10) and extended their lead over second-place San Diego to six games in the National League West.

  • Dodgers A.J. Pollock, Chris Taylor and Mookie Betts celebrate a 5-1 win over the Arizona Diamondacks at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Max Muncy, #13, slides safely into second base as Diamondacks Nick Ahmed, #13, could not get the throw by first baseman Christian Walker, who was charged with an error on the play. Corey Seager scored on the play during first inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

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  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Enrique Hernandez, #14 is safe at first base as Diamondacks Christian Walker, #53, can’t make the catch during 7th inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Clayton Kershaw, #22, started for the Dodgers against the Diamondacks at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers A.J. Pollock, #11, is greeted by manger Dave Roberts after hitting a homer in the 7th inning at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Cody Bellinger, #35, had to leap for this throw from Enrique Hernandez and was unable to tag Diamondacks Christian Walker, #53, during 6th inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Max Muncy, #13, scores on a throwing error from Diamondacks first baseman Christian Walker during first inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Mookie Betts, #50, had to pull in tight on this inside pitch from Diamondacks pitcher Luke Weaver during first inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Diamondacks Nick Ahmed, #13 tries to get a loose ball as Dodgers Max Muncy, #13, is safe at second base. Corey Seager scored on the play and first baseman Christian Walker was charged with a throwing error during first inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Corey Seager scores during first inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Jake McGee, #41, finishes off the Diamondacks for a 5-1 win at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers pitchers look on from the bullpen at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Enrique Hernandez scores on a single by Mookie Betts during 7th inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Dodgers Cody Bellinger, #35, had to leap for this throw from Enrique Hernandez and was unable to tag Diamondacks Christian Walker, #53, during 6th inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Diamondacks Andy Young beats the throw to Dodgers Cody Bellinger, #35, during 7th inning action at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

  • Clayton Kershaw dazzles as he passes milestone in Dodgers’ victory against Diamondbacks

    Diamondacks Luke Weaver, #24, started against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium Thursday, September 3, 2020. (Photo by David Crane, Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

For Kershaw (5-1), it was a milestone victory reminiscent of his prime. He walked two batters and struck out eight across six innings. He threw 99 pitches, the most by any Dodger pitcher this season.

“He was an All-Star last year, so let’s not forget that,” Manager Dave Roberts said. “But right now, he’s just continuing to make pitches. He feels good, and healthy, and strong. He was our ace last year and he’s pitching like an ace again.”

Kershaw got Nick Ahmed to swing and miss at a curveball in the second inning for the 2,500th strikeout of his career. At 32 years and 168 days old, Kershaw became the third-youngest pitcher to reach the milestone.

By the sixth inning, the only question was whether Kershaw would allow a hit – and how long Roberts would allow the veteran to pursue his second career no-hitter.

Christian Walker spoiled the drama by hitting a playable ground ball to the left side of the infield, between shortstop Corey Seager and second baseman Kiké Hernandez. Hernandez fielded the ball on the shallow outfield grass and made a long throw to first base. The throw was high enough that it forced Cody Bellinger to jump to make the catch as Walker crossed first base safely.

Dramatically, and not inevitably, the play was scored a single.

Roberts said he was not relieved by the official scorer’s decision; the sixth inning was going to be the last for Kershaw regardless of the outcome.

“Going into the sixth, (Kershaw) was at 86 pitches,” Roberts said. “To think you’ve got to get 12 outs, we’re not going to do that.”

Kershaw didn’t allow himself to consider the possibility of throwing a complete game no-hitter.

“If I were to get through the sixth there, I think after that maybe it starts getting more real,” he said. “Up until then, to me it’s not really real until after the sixth. After the seventh, you’ve got a real chance after that.”

Walker’s single was one of only four hits by Arizona in the game. The Diamondbacks went 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position and left eight men on base.

Seager (3 for 4) led the Dodgers’ 11-hit attack.

The Dodgers scored twice in the first inning, thanks to an unusual error by Walker.

Singles by Seager and Max Muncy put runners on first and second base. Bellinger chopped a grounder to Walker, who stepped on first base and threw the ball to second in pursuit of a double play. Walker’s throw eluded Ahmed and bounced off the canvas bag, up into the air above the befuddled shortstop. Seager was able to score easily from second base.

The next batter, Chris Taylor, lined a Luke Weaver pitch into left field for a base hit. Muncy scored, giving the Dodgers a 2-0 lead.

Weaver (1-6) settled in to retire the next 14 hitters in a row. The Dodgers broke the game open against the Diamondbacks’ bullpen in the seventh inning. They sent eight batters to the plate and added a couple insurance runs.

AJ Pollock pinch hit for Joc Pederson with a left-handed pitcher, Travis Bergen, on the mound. That prompted Manager Torey Lovullo to bring in a right-handed pitcher, Keury Mella. Pollock pummeled Mella’s first pitch to left-center field for a home run.

“I just was ready to hit,” Pollock told SportsNet LA. “He threw it right there. Sometimes it works out, sometimes it doesn’t. When you’re coming off the bench, you’re really just ready to go.”

It was the first home run by a Dodger pinch-hitter this season.

“He’s entirely more comfortable this year,” Roberts said of Pollock, who missed most of last season due to an elbow injury and a staph infection. “I wanted (Lovullo) to make the move. I like AJ against the right-hander.”

Hernandez singled later in the inning, went to second base on a wild pitch and scored on a single by Mookie Betts.

The Diamondbacks got their only run against Dylan Floro in the seventh inning.

For Kershaw, the back injury that delayed his 2020 debut is more like a distant memory than a nagging hindrance.

“The number one thing is he’s healthy, really,” Roberts said. “For him to be healthy and not have to guard, protect against his body, his back, it allows him the freedom to execute his pitches.”

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