LOS ANGELES -- Just what the Los Angeles Dodgers ordered.
With their bullpen overworked and several offensive weapons still underperforming, the Dodgers were relieved to have Clayton Kershaw next up in the starting rotation.
The three-time National League Cy Young Award winner gave the Dodgers the shot they desperately needed Monday night, along with a little more, in the 1-0 victory over the struggling Cincinnati Reds at Dodger Stadium.
Kershaw (7-1) threw a complete-game two-hitter for his third shutout of the season, giving the relievers some much-needed rest after they played 12 innings in the 17-inning win against the San Diego Padres on Sunday, plus another 4 2/3 innings on Saturday.
"It feels good to finish a game all the time, but especially after a game like yesterday," Kershaw said after handing the Reds their eighth consecutive loss.
Kershaw struck out seven and walked one; he now has 95 strikeouts on the season, compared to just five walks. He came up short of tying an NL record with at least 10 strikeouts in seven straight games, but became the first Dodgers pitcher to last at least seven innings in his first 10 starts of a season since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981, and the first with three shutouts in a month since Tim Belcher in 1989.
"I wish we had 25 of him," Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw. "It seems like every time he takes the mound, he goes Little League on us and does something, not only on the mound, to help us win."
Kershaw's leadoff single in the third inning was the first base hit off Reds starter Brandon Finnegan. Kershaw reached on a fielder's choice in the fifth, hustled to second after a pitch bounced off the chest of catcher Tucker Barnhart and continued to third after Barnhart's throw sailed into center field, further dirtying Kershaw's uniform.
"I've been sliding a lot this year," Kershaw said. "It's been fun. I feel like a baseball player."
Any chance of Kershaw throwing his second career no-hitter was quickly erased when Zack Cozart doubled on the first pitch of the game. The Reds played for one run, which isn't surprising with Kershaw on the mound, as Billy Hamilton bunted Cozart over to third. Somewhat surprising: The Dodgers pulled their infield in, but it paid off as Joey Votto lined out hard to shortstop Corey Seager, and Brandon Phillips grounded out to end the threat.
The leadoff batter reached base in three of the first four innings off Kershaw, but the Reds couldn't capitalize and Kershaw then retired the final 17 batters in a row to lower his ERA to 1.48. The Dodgers improved to 9-1 in games he started this season and 14-22 in the rest.
"My job is just to win the day I pitch," he said. "I'll do my part those four [other] days and be a cheerleader, but that's kind of all I can do."
The Dodgers gave Kershaw the only run he'd need in the sixth.
Justin Turner led off with a walk and took second on Barnhart's second throwing error of the game. Adrian Gonzalez then lifted a check-swing single to shallow left, moving Turner to third, and he came home when Howie Kendrick grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.