For once, the spotlight was stolen off Clayton Kershaw’s pitching ... by Clayton Kershaw’s fielding and Clayton Kershaw’s hitting.
The presumptive Cy Young winner and NL leader in ERA, WAR, strikeouts, wins, rainbows and puppies had another imposing performance — eight innings, only one run despite eight hits, 11 strikeouts and no walks — to clinch the NL West for the Dodgers in a game they eventually blew open to win 9-1. It was impressive but not effortless, as he threw more pitches, 117, than he had in any previous game this season. And while he was at it, he made a brilliant backhanded stab on a comebacker in the third inning, and for good measure hit a triple to tie the game at 1-1 in the fifth, the first three-bagger of his career:
As a side note, the Padres' Andrew Cashner on Sept. 20 and the Cubs' Jake Arrieta earlier Wednesday are the only other pitchers to triple this season.
At this point it’s hard to expect anything less than dazzlement from a Kershaw start, but the game’s other star performance, while hardly a shock, came as something of a relief to Dodgers fans. Yasiel Puig, who had been trying to shake off the remnants of a nasty August slump, was his best self Wednesday night. In the sixth he hammered a Tim Hudson sinker over the right field wall to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead, and in the seventh, his spectacular throw nailed Gregor Blanco at third base to help Kershaw escape a potential jam unscathed.
For good measure, he also walked with the bases loaded to force in the Dodgers’ ninth run in the eighth.
Hudson pitched well through five, but his third time through the order the LA hitters began to jump on him. He finished with 5 1/3 innings pitched, three runs, five hits, four strikeouts, one walk, and the game still within reach, but San Francisco’s bullpen unraveled behind him. Six relievers eventually trudged through the late innings, with most of the subsequent damage charged to Javy Lopez and the hard-throwing but wild Erik Cordier.
The Dodgers’ other runs came on a Carl Crawford two-run double and a Juan Uribe RBI single following Puig’s shot in the sixth, a bases-loaded Uribe single and an RBI A.J. Ellis force out in the eighth. Crawford was also hit twice by pitches, but he had shaken off his irritation by the end of the game when LA could finally celebrate in front of a sold-out Dodgers Stadium crowd — and in front of the Giants, who are still just one win away from clinching their wild card spot. Just to make it worse for San Francisco, the ninth inning was pitched by none other than erstwhile Giants closer Brian Wilson and his beard.
No word as of this writing on whether the Dodgers were planning to then charter a plane to Arizona and parachute into the Diamondbacks’ pool.