LOS ANGELES—With three weeks to go in the regular season and the Los Angeles Dodgers locked in a tight pennant race, Clayton Kershaw is back just in time.
Kershaw struck out five in his first start since July 3 and the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 5-1 on Monday night for their seventh straight home victory.
“I missed it,” Kershaw said. “Not a lot of better feelings in the world than getting to pitch here and getting a win.”
Activated from the injured list earlier in the day, Kershaw had missed 57 games with elbow inflammation.
“He’s been miserable,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He hates not competing and not playing. I know he’s been waiting for this day for quite some time.”
So have his teammates.
“We’re all just excited to see him back out there,” third baseman Justin Turner said.
The 33-year-old left-hander gave up four hits, walked one and didn’t figure in the decision after throwing 50 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. Kershaw reached on an infield single in the second and sacrificed in the fourth.
“I was throwing more curveballs today than I have in the past, but that just seemed to work out best. Got to get that slider working,” the three-time Cy Young Award winner said. “There’s not a lot of time to work out the kinks.”
Phil Bickford (4-2) got the win with one inning of scoreless relief.
With the second-place Dodgers chasing NL West-leading San Francisco, Kershaw’s return gives them another front-line starter to join Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer and Julio Urías, all of whom are strong Cy Young Award contenders.
“For me to be able to be part of it is huge,” Kershaw said. “Maybe I can get through six next time. That would be awesome.”
The defending World Series champion Dodgers remained 2 1/2 games behind the Giants in pursuit of their ninth consecutive division title. San Francisco clinched a playoff berth with its eighth straight win, 9-1 over San Diego.
“The Giants aren’t losing,” Kershaw said. “They’re not making it easy on us.”
Kershaw was throwing his fastball about 91 mph before going on the IL. He touched 90 a few times in the first when he needed 20 pitches to get out of the inning. He retired the side in the third, his only clean inning.
“To see him get up and down five times was fantastic,” Roberts said. “The biggest thing was for him to come out of this feeling good and wanting for more.”
The Dodgers took a 3-1 lead in the first on Corey Seager’s RBI single and Turner’s two-run double into the left-field corner. Turner added a solo homer, his 25th, in the eighth.
Austin Barnes doubled into the left-field corner in the sixth, extending the lead to 4-1.
Arizona’s lone run came on Josh Rojas’ RBI single in the first.
Diamondbacks starter Zac Gallen (2-10) gave up four runs and eight hits in 5 1/3 innings. He struck out four and walked three.
“They came out swinging in the first inning,” Gallen said.
By Beth Harris