SAN DIEGO — After a tough few outings, Clayton Kershaw is backing to pitching at Cy Young form.
Kershaw rebounded with seven dominant innings and got two-run homers from Yasiel Puig and A.J. Ellis as the NL West champion Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Diego Padres 4-0 on Saturday night.
Two days after clinching their first division title since 2009, the Dodgers turned to their ace who delivered a gem as he struck out 10 and allowed just three hits.
Kershaw (15-9) lowered his major league-best ERA to 1.88. He leads the NL with 224 strikeouts.
The left-hander was held out of his last start on Wednesday to allow him more rest as the playoffs approach.
“I felt good, so I guess that’s a bonus,” Kershaw said. A little bit erratic at first with the fastball but A.J. did a real good job of making me use all my pitches on both sides of the plate.”
In his previous three September starts, Kershaw wasn’t as sharp as normal, going 1-1 with a 4.26 ERA.
Kershaw is trying to become the first pitcher to lead the majors in ERA in three consecutive seasons since Atlanta’s Greg Maddux from 1993-95.
The last Dodger to finish a season with a sub-2.00 ERA was Sandy Koufax (1.73) in 1966.
San Diego had Kershaw’s number this season, defeating him in all three previous starts. The 2011 Cy Young Award winner was 0-3 with a 4.67 ERA in his first three starts against the Padres, while going 14-6 with a 1.71 ERA in his other starts.
“(San Diego) is a tough team. They battle me,” Kershaw said. “They put good at-bats on me and always seem to get my pitch count up. I felt good to finally get a win against these guys.”
Said Padres rookie second baseman Jedd Gyorko: “I think the difference was being able to get those key hits. You can’t get him all the time and he kind of got us. I’d say our at-bats were just as good as any other game against him. We just couldn’t push through.”
San Diego had runners on first and second in the first with one out and men on second and third with no outs in the third and couldn’t score either time against Kershaw.
“They’ve been successful against him the last couple of years,” Ellis said. “They grind him better than any team he’s faced throughout the season. He’s kind of become a one-sided guy against these guys. Fastball in, slider, occasional curveball (with) two strikes. I think he was ready for something different.”
Ellis homered in the fourth off rookie Burch Smith (1-2).
“It was a changeup that was a little bit up that ran into his bat,” Smith said.
Puig then connected on a shot to center field off Tim Stauffer in the seventh that was estimated at 457 feet. Kershaw reached on a bunt single to lead off the inning.
Kershaw retired 14 of his last 15 batters. Relievers Ronald Belisario and Brian Wilson each pitched a perfect inning for the Dodgers.
CARDS 7, BREWERS 2
MILWAUKEE — Matt Carpenter broke Stan Musial’s team record for doubles by a left-handed batter in a season, Lance Lynn won for the first time since early August and the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Milwaukee Brewers 7-2 to maintain a two-game lead in the NL Central.
Seeking their first division title since 2009, the Cardinals (91-64) have surged ahead of Pittsburgh (89-66) and Cincinnati (88-67), which fell three back with a 4-2 loss in Pittsburgh.
St. Louis lowered its magic number to one for clinching a postseason berth, won for the 12th time in 17 games and improved to 14-4 against the Brewers this year, including 8-1 in Milwaukee.
PIRATES 4, REDS 2
PITTSBURGH — A.J. Burnett scattered four hits over seven strong innings to help Pittsburgh move a game in front of Cincinnati for the top spot in the NL wild-card race.
Burnett (9-11) struck out a season-high 12 and Jason Grilli worked the ninth for his 31st save, his first since going to the disabled list with a strained right forearm in July.
CUBS 3, BRAVES 1
CHICAGO — Dioner Navarro hit a tiebreaking single in a three-run eighth inning, and Chicago Cubs Atlanta to keep the Braves on the brink of the NL East championship.
Atlanta’s magic number remained at one to clinch its first division title since 2005. Second-place Washington was rained out against Miami later Saturday.
D-BACKS 7, ROCKIES 2
DENVER — Matt Davidson homered and drove in three runs, Gerardo Parra had three hits and Arizona beat Colorado.
Chris Owings also had three hits for the Diamondbacks, who won for the first time since being eliminated from the NL West race Thursday.
Arizona starter Trevor Cahill (8-10) lasted into the sixth despite taking a line drive by DJ LeMahieu off his right leg in the bottom of the first.
METS 5, PHILLIES 4
(6 1/2 INNINGS)
PHILADELPHIA — David Wright and Daniel Murphy hit solo home runs and New York beat Philadelphia in a game called in the top of the seventh inning because of rain.
The game was halted and then called after a wait of 1 hour, 28 minutes.
Wright connected for the third consecutive game, and second straight day since returning from a hamstring injury that sidelined him for more than a month. Murphy broke a 1-all tie with a homer in a four-run sixth. His 12th homer of the season tied a career high set in 2009.
TIGERS 7, WHITE SOX 6
DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers tied the game with an astonishing six-run rally in the ninth inning, then beat the Chicago White Sox 7-6 when Omar Infante hit an infield single with the bases loaded in the 12th.
The Tigers won after trailing by six in the ninth for the first time since Aug. 22, 1947, according to STATS. They beat the Washington Senators 7-6 that day.
RAYS 5, ORIOLES 1
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Alex Cobb took a three-hit shutout into the ninth inning, Desmond Jennings drove in four runs and the Tampa Bay Rays beat Baltimore in a matchup of exhausted teams to maintain their lead in the AL wild-card race.
The first pitch came 10 hours, 56 minutes after the Rays’ 5-4, 18-inning win over Baltimore that ended at 2:05 a.m., a game that stretched on for 6:54 — a record time for both teams. Saturday’s game, by comparison, seemed to breeze by in 2:51.
INDIANS 4, ASTROS 1
CLEVELAND — Scott Kazmir allowed four hits in seven shutout innings, Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer and the Cleveland Indians maintained their hold on an AL wild-card spot with a win over Houston.
Houston, a major league-worst 51-104, has lost a season-high eight in a row.
RANGERS 3, ROYALS 1
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Matt Garza pitched eight impressive innings for his first victory in six starts and the Texas Rangers kept close in the playoff race, beating Kansas City.
The Rangers won for only the fifth time in 19 September games. They remained a half-game behind Cleveland for the second AL wild-card berth.
The Royals, out of the playoffs since winning the 1985 World Series, dropped 3½ games in back of the Indians.
Garza (10-6) was 0-3 with an 8.22 ERA in his first three September starts. Joe Nathan got his 40th save in 43 chances.
Jeremy Guthrie (14-12) got the loss.
ATHLETICS 9, TWINS 1
OAKLAND, Calif. — The Oakland Athletics lowered their magic number to one for clinching their second straight AL West title, topping Minnesota behind the pitching of Jarrod Parker and hitting of Alberto Callaspo.
The A’s have won 12 of 15 and lead second-place Texas by 7½ games.
Parker (12-7), who may start the A’s postseason opener, gave up one run and four hits in six innings.
Callaspo matched his career highs with four hits and had three RBIs. Kurt Suzuki and Yoenis Cespedes homered for the A’s.
The game started after a two-hour rain delay. The visiting dugout was flooded and sewage backed up in the A’s coaches’ bathroom, the third such incident at the Coliseum this season.
Josmil Pinto homered for Minnesota. Pedro Hernandez (3-2) gave up six runs and eight hits in two innings.
BLUE JAYS 4, RED SOX 2
BOSTON — Clay Buchholz lost for the first time this season, and the AL East champion Boston Red Sox rested a couple of regulars while falling to Mark Buehrle and the Toronto Blue Jays.
A day after the Red Sox clinched the division title, they lost for just the sixth time in 21 games. Manager John Farrell didn’t start second baseman Dustin Pedroia and first baseman Mike Napoli, and used starter Ryan Dempster for an inning of relief.
Buchholz (11-1) gave up two earned runs on six hits and two walks in six innings. He had pitched 11 scoreless innings in his previous two starts, his first since spending three months on the disabled list with a strained neck.
Buehrle (12-9) held Boston to one run in six innings. Casey Janssen pitched the ninth for his 33rd save in 35 chances.
YANKEES 6, GIANTS 0
NEW YORK — Ivan Nova pitched a six-hitter for his second career shutout, Alfonso Soriano homered and the New York Yankees beat San Francisco Giants.
The Yankees won for the just the third time in eight games, and are three games behind Cleveland for the second AL wild-card spot.
Nova (9-5) struck out seven and walked one in his third complete game this year. Ryan Vogelsong (3-6) took the loss.
ANGELS 6, MARINERS 5
ANAHEIM, Calif. — Collin Cowgill homered and also stole home as the Los Angeles Angels beat the Seattle Mariners.
Rookie Grant Green hit a three-run double to help Jerome Williams (9-10) win his fourth straight start.
Ernesto Frieri got three outs for his 36th save in 40 attempts despite giving up Raul Ibanez’s 300th career homer.
Joe Saunders (11-16) tied the Astros’ Lucas Harrell and the Cubs’ Edwin Jackson for the most losses in the majors.