(Reuters) – Clayton Kershaw pitched seven strong innings and his bullpen triggered a crucial double-play in the eighth to give the Los Angeles Dodgers a 6-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds on Wednesday.
Kershaw (7-3) struck out seven and allowed one run before exiting the game with a 5-1 lead in the eighth, where the Reds threatened with the bases loaded.
But Los Angeles reliever Kuo Hong-chih extinguished the threat by getting Drew Stubbs to line into an inning-ending double play as the Dodgers (38-27) went on to seal their second straight win against Cincinnati (36-30).
Kuo recorded the last five outs for his first save of the year and preserved the win for the Dodgers’ young left-hander Kershaw.
“Every time (Kershaw) goes out there he finds something else out about himself,” Los Angeles manager Joe Torre told reporters. “It doesn’t surprise me. The big thing is he goes out and even when he doesn’t have his best stuff he’s able to pitch a quality game.”
With the win, the Dodgers moved a half-game ahead of the San Diego Padres for first place in the National League West.
Los Angeles stormed to a 5-0 advantage after Andre Ethier launched a three-run home run in the sixth. Manny Ramirez also homered for the second straight night, blasting the 553rd of his career in the ninth.
Cincinnati scored once in the sixth and also got a home run from Chris Heisey in the ninth. Rookie pitcher Mike Leake (5-1) suffered his first loss of the year after allowing five runs in six innings.
Struggling recently with their offense, the Reds suffered a 12-0 shutout loss to the Dodgers on Tuesday.
In the sixth inning with runners on first and third Wednesday, Scott Rolen struck out on a questionable called strike and was ejected from the game alongside manager Dusty Baker as the two men argued the call.
(Writing by Jahmal Corner in Los Angeles; Editing by Alastair Himmer)