MIAMI (AP) — Pitching with a big lead in the eighth inning, Clayton Kershaw bounced a curve in the dirt, then spun in disgust and kicked the mound as if he had just lost the game.
Kershaw is unaccustomed even to one-pitch lapses, and he overcame the occasional difficulty he had Thursday, pitching eight innings to help the Los Angeles Dodgers win their third game in a row by beating the Miami Marlins 6-0.
Kershaw (13-7) allowed five hits and lowered his ERA to 1.72, best in the majors. Miami’s leadoff batter reached in five innings against the left-hander, but the Marlins hit into three double plays and went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
By Kershaw’s standards, that made it a sub-par effort.
“I was terrible the first couple of innings. I didn’t have command,” he said. “It could have gone a lot differently. The game could have been out of hand pretty quick.”
Kershaw walked Christian Yelich to start the game, and the first two batters reached against him in the second inning. But the Marlins rank last in runs and hitting for a reason, and Kershaw is a Cy Young Award contender for a reason.
“I’ve seen him a lot better,” Miami manager Mike Redmond said. “He looked like his command was not there with his fastball, but whenever we did get in a situation with a guy on, he executed his pitches and was able to keep us at bay.”
Former All-Star closer Brian Wilson made his first major-league appearance since undergoing Tommy John surgery and pitched the ninth for Los Angeles, allowing one hit and striking out two. The game was his first since April 2012.
“It was long overdue, a very arduous process, but I’m glad I went through it so I could appreciate baseball even more,” Wilson said. “I felt comfortable. I felt like I hadn’t skipped a beat.”
Wilson completed the Dodgers’ 17th shutout, most in the majors. Miami was shut out for the 15th time.
The Dodgers (75-52) climbed 23 games above .500 for the first time since 2009. They went 5-2 on their two-city trip and have won 22 of their past 25 road games.
“We’ve got the perfect mix right now — great starting pitching, timely hitting and a lock-down bullpen,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “It creates a lot of wins.”
They improved to 28-5 since the All-Star break and begin a series at home Friday against AL East leader Boston.
Los Angeles’ Yasiel Puig hit a double that struck the center-field wall above the 418-foot sign, scored a run and had a sacrifice fly. But he finished only 2 for 15 in the series, dropping his average to .346.
Puig was hit by a pitch in the upper left arm in the ninth but stayed in the game. He became dehydrated during Wednesday’s game, limped at times and received intravenous fluids afterward.
Kershaw broke a scoreless tie when he hit a two-out single in the fourth to drive in the first of the Dodgers’ three runs in the inning. He’s tied for the major-league lead among pitchers with eight RBIs.
That was the only run Los Angeles needed, thanks to his pitching. He struck out six, including Yelich three times.
“He’s one of the best pitchers in the game for a reason,” the rookie said. “I found out that today pretty quick.”
Henderson Alvarez (2-3) went five innings and allowed five runs, all of them scoring with two outs.
Puig barely missed a home run leading off the fourth inning, when his drive struck a foot below the edge of the wall for a double.
“It’s almost not fair to hit a ball that far and it doesn’t go out,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said with a smile.
With two out Alvarez pitched around Juan Uribe, walking him to load the bases, but the tactic backfired when Kershaw hit an RBI single. Carl Crawford followed with a two-run double for a 3-0 lead.
The Dodgers scored again in the fifth on back-to-back two-out doubles by Andre Ethier and Ellis, followed by Skip Schumaker’s RBI single.
Notes: Hanley Ramirez was given the day off, and Nick Punto made his 25th start at SS for the Dodgers. Said manager Don Mattingly of the 5-foot-9 Punto still playing the position at age 35: “Chihuahuas live longer than big dogs.” … RHP Ricky Nolasco, scheduled to pitch Friday, is 1-2 with an 8.16 ERA in three starts against Boston.