Clayton Kershaw admitted he was nervous about making his first start in six weeks.
Apparently it’s nothing new. He just hides it well.
Kershaw pitched seven shutout innings in his first outing since Opening Day, and Hanley Ramirez and Drew Butera homered to help the Los Angeles Dodgers defeat the Washington Nationals 8-3 on Tuesday night.
"I’m always nervous, every time I start," Kershaw said. "You want to do well. Same type of nerves tonight, but after the first inning I was able to settle in OK."
Kershaw (2-0) was stubborn in his return after missing 32 games, allowing nine hits, but striking out nine without a walk, and pitching out of several jams while the game was still close.
The two-time National League Cy Young winner had been on the disabled list for the first time in his career, sidelined by a strained back muscle after winning March 22 in the major league opener in Australia.
"He shows you right away what you’ve been missing," said manager Don Mattingly, whose Dodgers began the day third place in the NL West. "Just a guy that brings that to the table every five days. It’s a little reminder of who he is and what he means to you."
The Dodgers collected 14 hits despite keeping outfielder Yasiel Puig out for the second straight game since he crashed into an outfield wall in the ninth inning Sunday at Miami.
Coming off a pair of minor league rehabilitation starts, Kershaw threw 89 pitches.
"I missed pitching in the big leagues," he said. "It’s a special thing we get to do, and I try not to take it for granted, so six weeks felt like a long time."
Anthony Rendon and Jayson Werth singled to start the fourth against Kershaw, but Adam LaRoche popped out and Kershaw struck out Scott Hairston and Ian Desmond.
In the sixth, Rendon led off with a single, but Kershaw picked him off. Werth and LaRoche followed with singles before Kershaw again fanned Hairston and Desmond.
"He was nasty," Washington’s Jose Lobaton said. "He was right in the zone. He was throwing strikes, aggressive, big curveball."
Werth had four hits and Blake Treinen (0-1), making his first major league start, allowed three unearned runs in five-plus innings.
The 25-year-old Treinen was called up from Triple-A Syracuse to make the start and matched Kershaw for five innings. He allowed seven hits and no walks, while striking out two.
He was part of his own undoing, however, when the Dodgers loaded the bases in the sixth inning on three balls that didn’t leave the infield.
Kershaw’s hustle started the rally. Treinen misplayed his leadoff grounder and Kershaw hustled down the line and just beat the throw.
"With Kersh you get a guy that’s going to just be kind of all in every day, in every aspect, from running to hitting to fielding, the whole package," Mattingly said
Dee Gordon’s grounder to first base was bobbled by LaRoche, though the play was ruled a hit.
Carl Crawford followed with a dribbler up the first base line for a single and, with the bases loaded, Ramirez singled to right, scoring Kershaw and ending Treinen’s night.
After reliever Craig Stammen fanned Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier grounded into a fielder’s choice that scored Gordon, then Juan Uribe’s broken-bat single made it 3-0.
The Dodgers added a run in the seventh, and four in the eighth when Ramirez homered leading off and Butera capped the inning with a three-run shot for an 8-0 lead.
Chris Perez relieved for the Dodgers to begin the eighth and gave up three runs.
NOTES: Puig said before the game he was ready to return. Mattingly said Puig might be used as a pinch hitter or defensive replacement. . . . Los Angeles 1B Adrian Gonzalez (0 for his last 15) was given the night off. . . . Nationals OF Nate McLouth had a bandaged right hand following his diving catch in foul territory during Monday night’s game. The cut didn’t require stitches and McLouth said he was available to play. . . . Washington C Wilson Ramos (hand) took regular batting practice Tuesday and pronounced himself "ready to go." He could rejoin the team as early as Wednesday. . . . Nationals manager Matt Williams said the latest X-rays on 3B Ryan Zimmerman (right thumb) "were great, and he’s on path to begin his rehab as soon as possible."