LOS ANGELES -- The best pitcher and premier position player in baseball play in neighboring counties, separated by less than an hour of freeways. But not until Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium have Clayton Kershaw and Mike Trout met in a regular-season game.
The advantage belonged to Trout, with a double, single and strikeout in the personal confrontation that brought uncommon national attention to an August Interleague game. But Kershaw's Dodgers claimed the decision that counted, a 5-4 walk-off victory that came with a run in the ninth inning scored by Juan Uribe on a slow roller to third base off the bat of pinch-hitter Andre Ethier.
"It's always fun, going against the best," Trout said when asked about Kershaw. "He's a good person, and he battles out there. He's a competitor. I love battling guys like that. The first couple of innings we had some things going, but he hung in there and battled through seven innings. That's why he's who he is."
Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis grasped the big-picture meaning of this first meaningful collision of two irresistible forces.
"I pinch myself," Ellis said, "because I'm sitting three feet away from one guy and 60 feet, six inches away from another guy on a Hall of Fame trajectory -- and maybe go down as the greatest at their positions of all time. So, it's a pretty special moment that I'll never forget -- and I liked it better when we struck him out than when he's hitting bullets into the left-field corner."
With all the focus on Kershaw's golden left arm and Trout's remarkable package of skills, it was a fine time for Albert Pujols to remind everyone that he's still capable of doing big things, too.
A 14th win in 16 decisions appeared headed Kershaw's way until Pujols unloaded a booming home run to tie it in the eighth off Brian Wilson. Singles by Uribe and Ellis, a full-count bullet to center sending Uribe to third, preceded Ethier's grounder off Kevin Jepsen that ended it and evened the Freeway Series at one game apiece before it heads to Anaheim for two more games.
Kershaw, the Majors' ERA leader three years running, and Trout, second in the American League Most Valuable Player balloting the past two years, did not disappoint a crowd of 51,051 that brought a playoff-like atmosphere to Chavez Ravine.
"Josh [Hamilton] and I were talking about that in that last inning," Trout said. "It was loud. It's what players want to have, a loud crowd, big situation. It seems like every inning the crowd is into it here."
The Angels had the blue-clad partisans muffled in the second inning with four consecutive hits producing a pair of runs. Chris Iannetta's opposite-field double on a Kershaw fastball drove in both runs before the two-time National League Cy Young Award winner made his escape, retiring Erick Aybar to leave two men in scoring position.
Trout legged out an infield hit in the first inning, the call standing after a challenge by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly. Pujols' grounder back to Kershaw led to an inning-ending double play.
"I've faced him five or six times [including Cactus League play and the 2013 All-Star Game], and the curveball he threw that first at-bat [for a ball] is the only one I've seen," Trout said. "I'm glad I laid off it. It was impressive. Other than that, it's been all heaters."
After Uribe's three-run blast off a Hector Santiago breaking ball had the Dodgers in front in the bottom of the second, Trout timed a first-pitch fastball leading off the third and hammered it to left for a leadoff double.
When Pujols stroked a 3-0 fastball for a double to left, the game was tied. But Kershaw once again worked out of trouble, Pujols getting erased at the plate on Howie Kendrick's one-out grounder.
It remained 3-3 until the Dodgers manufactured an unearned run in the sixth for a one-run lead.
If Kershaw wasn't himself in the first three innings, he found his groove in the middle rounds. A walk to Pujols in the sixth was the lone Angels baserunner from the fourth through the sixth.
Preceding Pujols in the fifth, Trout looked at three straight 94 mph fastballs, his bat never leaving his shoulder. This was in direct opposition to the aggressive mindset he brought into the game, needing only four pitches to collect his single and double.
"That third at-bat, he painted on me," said Trout, who was out on a deep fly ball to right against Kershaw in the 2013 All-Star Game. "That's why the numbers are there. He knows where he's throwing the baseball. It was pretty cool."
Kershaw seemed somewhat dismissive of questions about the Trout matter, but Ellis didn't mind elaborating on his involvement in a night he'll remember.
"It was a really cool experience," Ellis said. "[Trout] does his thing, and then you have another one of the greatest right-handed hitters of our generation hitting behind him coming up. It gets the juices [flowing] for you as a big leaguer, when you get to moments like this, have these situations come up.
"As a fan of baseball, and a lot of us are, those memories and experiences are what we'll think about when our playing days are over."
His personal impressions of Trout?
"He wished us good luck in his first at-bat," Ellis said. "He says hello and wishes us good luck, both the umpire and myself. After that, he's very business-like, very professional. He's locked in -- and it shows."
Lyle Spencer is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.