Kershaw's shutout exactly what Dodgers needed

Two-hitter vs. Reds comes one day after 17 grueling innings in San Diego

Kershaw's shutout exactly what Dodgers needed

LOS ANGELES -- Throughout his postgame interview Monday night, Clayton Kershaw kept the middle finger of his golden pitching hand dipped in a tiny cup with a solution he said makes the skin tougher.

As if Clayton Kershaw isn't tough enough.

He had just pitched another in a series of masterpieces, a 102-pitch two-hitter in a 1-0 Dodgers win over the Reds, the lefty's third shutout of the year moving him to 7-1. All three of those shutouts have come during his 5-0 May. Over the last calendar year, Kershaw is 21-5 with a 1.42 ERA with 323 strikeouts and 31 walks in 253 1/3 innings.

Roberts on 1-0 win over the Reds

With those kinds of numbers, no wonder those around him gush with admiration.

"I wish I had 25 of him," said Dave Roberts, a rookie manager lucky enough to have a three-time National League Cy Young Award winner for an ace. "Not only is he a pitcher of a lifetime, of a generation, but he's a baseball player of a generation."

Kershaw got a single, was robbed of another and ran like a madman on the basepaths. But most of all, he threw a complete game the day after his team went 17 innings and the bullpen threw 12 of them.

"It feels good to give them a day off," Kershaw said. "It feels good to finish a game all the time, but especially after a game like yesterday."

Kershaw runs wild

"It speaks to Clayton. He knows where we're at, where our bullpen is at, how taxed they've been," said A.J. Ellis, who caught all 17 innings Sunday and was back in there Monday with Yasmani Grandal nursing a bruised foot. "For Clayton to meet that challenge and expectations every night, it seems like every time he's pitching it's coming off a tired bullpen. What he's done so far, giving those guys a blow, you should have seen the reception he got coming in from those guys. Expectations are off the charts, they seem unmeetable and he keeps meeting them. His consistency is mindblowing. Our expectations are unfair, what we expect him to do. Yet, he meets them.

Kershaw the Best Pitcher Ever?

"We all know how fortunate we are. I hope all of baseball realizes what they're watching right now. I know Los Angeles, with the ovation he gets going out there for the ninth inning, appreciates his work and completing his job. We don't take it for granted. We see what he puts into it. We are in awe with the consistency, and it's fair to say we all raise our game on the day he pitches."

The Dodgers are 9-1 this season when Kershaw starts, 14-22 when he doesn't. The franchise has astronomical expectations of Kershaw, but he said his expectations are always the same.

"My job is to win the day I pitch. All the outside stuff, what the team does the other four days,I'll be a cheerleader, but it doesn't change expectations on my day," he said. "I expect to win. I don't feel like it carries any more weight one way or another."

Kershaw criticized his command early, when he threw first-pitch balls to seven of the first 10 batters. He had only one strikeout through the first four innings, when Reds hitters were swinging early, but he finished with seven strikeouts and one walk, snapping a string of six consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts, one shy of Randy Johnson's NL record and two shy of the MLB record shared by Pedro Martinez and Chris Sale.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for since 2001. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.