KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Clayton Kershaw was asked to assess his performance against the Kansas City Royals on Tuesday night, and the Dodgers ace bemoaned the fact that he didn’t have command of his fastball.
Maybe if he did, he’d have tossed another no-hitter.
Kershaw still managed to follow his first career no-no by going eight marvelous innings, and Adrian Gonzalez and Andre Ethier drove in a run apiece as the Dodgers scraped out a 2-0 victory.
“It definitely wasn’t easy tonight,” Kershaw said.
It only looked that way.
“All night he felt like he was fighting it,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly explained. “His fastball command wasn’t where he wanted it, but typical Clayton.”
Kershaw (8-2) allowed six hits and a walk while striking out eight. The two-time Cy Young winner hasn’t allowed a run in 21 1-3 innings, spanning his near-perfect game against Colorado on Wednesday — the only runner occurred on an error — and his previous start against Arizona.
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his 23rd save.
Danny Duffy (4-7) dueled admirably with Kershaw for six innings, allowing one run on four hits and four walks. But the left-hander was done in by a high pitch count, needing a season-high 105, and was eventually lifted to protect his surgically repaired shoulder.
Eric Hosmer had a pair of hits for the Royals, the first with one out in the first inning to end any thought of Kershaw tossing consecutive no-hitters. Otherwise, their offense was sporadic, unable to string together enough runners to pose much of a threat.
“He’s as good as advertised, that’s for sure, every bit of it,” Hosmer said. “He’s definitely got his game plan, which he sticks to the whole time. He’s got four well-above average pitches. The main thing about him is he gets ahead and attacks you early. That’s a guy you don’t want to get behind on with great off-speed and a fastball that he can hump to 95, 96. Luckily, that’s the last time we face him.”
The Dodgers plated their first run after Justin Turner tripled to lead off the game. He scored on a hard grounder by Gonzalez, which deflected off Duffy and toward second base for what nearly ended up being the game’s only run.
Ethier’s RBI single came off reliever Kelvin Herrera in the ninth inning.
Duffy needed 29 pitches to survive the first, and he wiggled out of jams each of the next four innings, too. But while he was gritty enough to keep Kansas City in the game, a lineup that has struggled to put up runs for the last week failed him again.
Kansas City has only scored 13 times while losing five of its last six.
Los Angeles had lost all four of its games played at Kauffman Stadium, including the series opener Monday night, when the Royals beat up on Zack Greinke, their former ace.
They had a much tougher time handling Kershaw.
Showcasing his mid-90s fastball, power curveball and devastating slider, Kershaw at one point retired eight straight. And even when he ran into trouble, he slipped right out of it.
Kershaw induced a double play after Hosmer’s single in the first. He rallied from a 3-0 count to Alex Gordon to strike him out with a runner aboard in the sixth. In the seventh, he got Justin Maxwell and Alcides Escobar on groundouts to leave a pair of runners on base.
“That’s the best slider we’ve seen all year long,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “That thing had teeth with a bite.”
In fact, the biggest blight on Kershaw’s night may have been his walk to Gordon in the fifth inning. It was only the second he’d allowed to a left-handed hitter this season.
“I made some pitches when I had to,” Kershaw said. “Tonight I was making a lot more stressful pitches. The no-hitter was stressful for more personal reasons.”
NOTES: Dodgers SS Hanley Ramirez (sore right shoulder) was scratched from the starting lineup. “Hopefully we’ll have him tomorrow,” Mattingly said. … The Royals activated LHP Bruce Chen (bulging disc) from the 60-day DL, optioned LHP Tim Collins to Triple-A Omaha and designated LHP Donnie Joseph for assignment. … Dodgers RHP Dan Haren faces Royals RHP James Shields in Wednesday night’s series finale.