May 29, 2024

Clayton Kershaw has made seven starts since returning from a shoulder injury Aug. 10, the Dodgers left-hander’s fastball so diminished he has induced just four swinging strikes on the 169 four-seamers he has thrown in those games.

But what Kershaw lacks in stuff, he makes up for in guts and guile.

Kershaw blanked the San Francisco Giants on two hits over five innings of Saturday night’s 7-0 win before a sold-out crowd of 52,704 in Chavez Ravine for his 210th career victory, moving him ahead of Don Drysdale and into second place behind Don Sutton (233) on the franchise’s win list.

In what could be his last regular-season start in Dodger Stadium, Kershaw escaped a two-on, no-out jam in the fifth inning, striking out Tyler Fitzgerald with an 86-mph slider and getting Patrick Bailey to ground out to third.

Austin Slater followed with a sinking line drive to left field, but David Peralta made a nice lunging catch to end the inning, preserve a 3-0 lead and keep Kershaw in line for a win that improved the three-time National League Cy Young Award winner to 3-0 with a 2.03 ERA — and the Dodgers to 6-1 — in his last seven starts.

Joe Kelly retired the side in order with two strikeouts in the sixth, Michael Grove struck out three and walked one in the seventh and eighth innings, and Caleb Ferguson added a scoreless ninth to complete the shutout for the NL West-champion Dodgers (95-59).

Designated hitter J.D. Martinez provided a big chunk of the offense with a solo homer to center, his 31st, in the second inning and a two-out, two-run double to right in the third. He’s batting .365 (19 for 52) with six homers, two doubles and 20 RBIs in 14 September games.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers against the Giants in the second inning Saturday.

Dodgers starting pitcher Clayton Kershaw delivers against the Giants in the second inning Saturday.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Freddie Freeman drove in a run with his major league-leading 57th double in the fifth inning and needs three in the final eight games to produce the first 60-double season since World War II. Max Muncy followed Freeman’s hit with an RBI single to center for a 5-0 lead.

Mookie Betts walked and scored in the third and fifth innings, doubled in the seventh and roped a two-run double to left-center in the eighth for a 7-0 lead. Betts has driven in 105 runs in the leadoff spot, the most in a season in major league history .

Kershaw missed six weeks from late June to early August because of shoulder soreness and returned with less zip on his fastball, which dipped from its usual 91-mph range to an average of 88.2 in a Sept. 5 start at Miami and 88.7 in his start at Seattle on Sept. 16.

The Dodgers skipped Kershaw in the rotation in early September and gave him six days’ rest before Saturday night’s start. His fastball averaged 88.7 mph again, but he kept the Giants off the board by mixing the pitch with his 85-mph slider and looping, 72-mph curveball.

“It’s remarkable, it really is,” manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw’s ability to pitch so effectively with diminished stuff. “I think Clayton is the first to tell you he doesn’t like to use anything as an excuse or talk about anything, but I know what’s going on. I just have so much respect for him. People can’t do what he can do.

“I remember a start [in 2018] where he was throwing [87-88 mph] in a game where his back went out. And he found a way to get through [five innings of one-run] baseball. I don’t know how he was doing it. He ended up going on the IL right after that. He just sort of wills himself to get guys out.”

Kershaw, who improved to 13-4 with a 2.42 ERA this season and 26-15 with a 1.99 ERA in 58 career games against the Giants, usually responds to questions about his shoulder by smiling and saying, “I’m fine.” Not only has he not used it as an excuse, but he’s also barely acknowledged it as an injury. It’s more of a nuisance.

Asked if Kershaw told the Dodgers not to disclose details of his injury or if the team made that decision, Roberts said, “Maybe a combo. I think it’s one of those things where … it doesn’t do much good to talk about something if you’re making a decision to compete. What’s the point of it? I think Clayton, he sees the world sometimes like that.”

Short hops

Outfielder Jason Heyward is the winner of the Roy Campanella Award, given annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit and leadership of the Hall of Fame catcher and voted upon by uniformed Dodgers personnel. Heyward was presented with the award before Saturday night’s game by Campanella’s daughter, Joni Campanella Roan, and his grandson, Malcolm Campanella.

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