Kershaw sharp in return, Dodgers blank D-backs
PHOENIX - Clayton Kershaw was stringing together dominant, scoreless innings. Cody Bellinger ripped a first-inning homer into the bullpen.
The Los Angeles Dodgers already looked formidable even before their superstars started contributing big moments. Now that all appears well with their veteran ace and cleanup hitter — and with Mookie Betts delivering at the plate and in the field — the seven-time NL West champs seem even stronger in the 60-game sprint that's the 2020 season.
Kershaw threw 5 2/3 sharp innings in his season debut, Bellinger hit his first home run of the season and the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 3-0 on Sunday.
“It was fun, I missed it,” Kershaw said. “It was hard to miss opening day and I didn't know how long it would take for my back to get better. It bounced back pretty quick, so I was just thankful to get out there today. Felt good, it was awesome.”
Betts homered and doubled before leaving early because of a finger injury on his left hand. The Dodgers won three times in the four-game series, and have taken five of six overall.
Kershaw (1-0) gave up three hits, walked none and struck out six. The three-time Cy Young Award winner was supposed to make his ninth opening day start on July 23, but was scratched hours before the game because of a back injury suffered in the weight room.
In his return, the 32-year-old Kershaw threw 81 pitches. He retired his first 10 batters and his fastball was in the 92-94 mph range.
The left-hander didn’t allow a baserunner until Starling Marte and Christian Walker hit back-to-back singles in the fourth inning. Kershaw retired the next two hitters, fanning Kole Calhoun to end the threat.
“He kept those guys guessing,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Bellinger got a rare day off on Saturday after starting the season with a .139 batting average and no homers through eight games. The rest appeared to do the NL MVP good: He hit a full-count changeup from Merrill Kelly (1-1) into the right field bullpen for a two-run homer in the first.
“I'm sure it was a weight off his shoulders,” Roberts said. “He had the mental day yesterday, then started today off with a two-run homer, which proved to be the difference. ... So I think we're headed in the right direction.”
Said Bellinger: “It felt great. But I know it's going to be grind, it's not going to be easy just because I clicked those two balls.”
Betts hit a home run that splashed into the Chase Field swimming pool beyond the right-center field wall in the fifth inning. He appeared to hurt his finger earlier in the at-bat, and the star right fielder was pulled for a pinch hitter in the seventh. X-rays on Betts were negative.
Kenley Jansen earned his second save with a scoreless ninth. Bellinger secured the final out when he made a difficult running catch in deep center field.
The Diamondbacks came into the game hitting just .199 through nine games and couldn't muster much offense once again, finishing with four singles.
“We’re extremely frustrated right now,” Arizona manager Torey Lovullo said. “A day off tomorrow will hopefully recharge our batteries. Our players are obviously not swinging the way they want.”
The Diamondbacks have just two homers through 10 games which is the lowest total in the majors. They've also given up 18 homers, the most in baseball.
Dodgers: SS Corey Seager was out of the lineup. Manager Dave Roberts said Saturday that Seager has been battling soreness since fouling a ball of his calf on Friday. ... Betts was pulled early for the second straight game. Roberts said on Saturday that Betts was also battling sore legs from playing on the D-backs' artificial turf.
Diamondbacks: Christian Walker was back at first base and batted third against Kershaw. Walker is the usual starting first baseman but has switched between 1B and DH through the early season after he was bothered by a groin injury during summer camp. Walker came into the game 5 of 11 in his career against Kershaw, including four homers. He had one of the team's three hits against Kershaw on Sunday.
Dodgers: Los Angeles travels to San Diego for a three-game series. RHP Walker Buehler (0-0, 4.91) has the start on Monday.
Diamondbacks: Arizona has Monday off before hosting a three-game series against the Houston Astros. The Diamondbacks will sent LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-1, 4.09) to the mound in the opener on Tuesday.