LOS ANGELES – Justin Turner and Joc Pederson homered as the Los Angeles Dodgers welcomed the first day of summer with a 4-1 victory over the NL East leading Washington Nationals on Monday night at Dodger Stadium.
Clayton Kershaw pitched seven strong innings, striking out eight, and walking none as he earned his 11th win of the season, tied with Jake Arrieta and Chris Sale for the Major League lead.
The highly anticipated pitching matchup was supposed to feature a battle of two 10-game winners in Kershaw and Nationals' ace Stephen Strasburg, but the undefeated right-hander was scratched by Washington manager Dusty Baker with upper back soreness an hour before the game.
"I found out about an hour before the game," Kershaw said of his matchup with Strasburg. "It wasn't like they seeked me out to tell me, it wasn't a big deal to me, but I might not have given up a hit to him like I did to Petit."
The temperature was 96 degrees at game time, and it was likely because the red-hot Justin Turner was in the building. The Dodgers' third baseman, went 2-for-4 with two RBI and launched a solo home run to dead-center field in the first inning.
"I get it from my Momma," joked Turner about his recent power surge. "This is a great place to hit when the weather heats up. The ball flies out of here pretty good, so that obviously helped."
The blast was Turner's seventh home run thus far in the month of June and his 10th overall. In his last 15 games, Turner is batting .351 with three doubles, seven homers and 16 RBI.
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"I felt pretty good in the playoffs last year, but I wasn't hitting home runs," Turner mentioned when asked when the last time he was so hot at the plate. "It feels nice to be able to contribute like this."
Joc Pederson also homered off Washington's replacement starter, Yusmiero Petit who the Dodgers were familiar with after his years of service with the rival San Francisco Giants.
Pederson crushed a 2-0 slider inside the foul pole in right field for his 13th long ball of the season.
Petit (2-1) dropped his first game of the season, allowing three runs on five hits with five strikeouts in six innings of work.
"There aren't many guys around who can do what he did," Baker said of his starter. "To not start for two months and then all of a sudden throw 96 pitches, get big time strikes and keep us in the game. He saved us."
Kershaw 's 23-inning scoreless streak against the Nationals was snapped in the top of the seventh inning when the three-time Cy Young Award winner ran into trouble after surrendering three straight singles.
"They did a good job swinging at fastballs. They hit one really hard at Howie and he made an awesome play," Kershaw said of his seventh-inning struggles. "That was probably the difference in the game. I'll take it. I got a little good fortune and it worked out."
Kershaw won his eighth consecutive game against the Nationals, and has not lost to Washington since Aug. 6, 2010. He is 8-0 with a 0.88 ERA in his last eight starts against them.
Overall, Kershaw is 9-0 with a 1.15 ERA in his last 10 starts with 101 strikeouts against just four walks. His MLB-leading ERA rose to 1.50 on the season, but he put some distance between him and Nationals' starter Max Scherzer for the MLB lead in strikeouts with 141 to Scherzer's 128.
"Kershaw's a nasty man. He is one of the premiere pitchers in the game," Baker said of Kershaw. "He doesn't have a 1.50 ERA for nothing. He never gives up."
2015 NL MVP, Bryce Harper, found that out the hard way as he wore the silver sombrero on Monday, striking out three consecutive times against Kershaw.
"When he gets locked in and does what he does, he's very special," Harper said of Kershaw. "That's why he's one of the best, and he's on his A game right now. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap and come back tomorrow."
Dodgers' rookie Corey Seager was a double-double machine for the boys in blue, finishing 2-for-4 with two doubles and a run scored, his third consecutive mulit-hit game.
Kenley Jansen worked a perfect ninth inning for Los Angeles, collecting his 20th save of the season, and set two new Dodgers franchise records.
"I just try to help this team win. This organization means a lot, and that record means a lot to me," Jansen said. "Just to have an opportunity to play for this team mean's a lot.
His 20th save of the season was the fifth consecutive year with at least 20 saves and he recorded his 162nd career save, surpassing Eric Gagne for most all-time in Dodgers franchise history.
"It's an awesome feeling to pass one of the top 5 closers in the history of the league," Jansen said of Gagne and entering the record books. "To me, it's all about winning. I just want to get back to the playoffs and win the World Series."
Los Angeles won their fourth consecutive game and is now six games above .500 (39-33) for the first time all season. They also picked up a game on the San Francisco Giants and trail by 5.5 games in the NL West.
Players of the Game:
Clayton Kershaw: 1 run, 6 hits, 8 strikeouts in 7.0 IP.
Justin Turner: 2-for-4 with a home run and two RBI.
Joc Pederson: 1-for-2 with a solo home run.
1. Silver Sombrero: Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper won the NL MVP last season, but he was humbled by the 2014 NL MVP on Monday night as he struck out three straight times against Clayton Kershaw.
2. What Could Have Been: For weeks, the highly anticipated matchup of 10-win aces had baseball savants buzzing at the pitching duel that would take part at Dodger Stadium on Monday night. Stephen Strasburg was projected to start for the Washington Nationals, pitting his perfect 10-0 record against the Los Angeles Dodgers and three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw who was 10-1 on the season. Unfortunately, the battle of the best never came to fruition as Strasburg was scratched with upper back soreness just an hour before the game.
3. The Closer: Kenley Jansen became the all-time leader in Dodgers franchise history with 162 career saves.
Nationals (43-28): Washington will take Tanner Roark tomorrow as the right-hander has lasted six or more innings in four of his last five starts.
Dodgers (39-33): Scott Kazmir gets the call for Los Angeles on Tuesday against the NL East leaders at 7:10PM PST.