LOS ANGELES (AP) — With nothing at stake in the last game of the season, many teams’ aces would take the day off. Not Clayton Kershaw.
The left-hander finished with a major league-leading 2.53 ERA, Adrian Gonzalez singled in the go-ahead run in the sixth inning, and the Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the San Francisco Giants 5-1 on Wednesday, a day after being eliminated from playoff contention for the third straight year by the NL West champions.
“He’s as good as anybody in the game,” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. “He loves pitching.”
Kershaw (14-9) allowed one run and three hits in eight innings, struck out eight and walked three in his 33rd start, tying a career high.
He assessed his season as “all right.”
“If we make the playoffs next season it will be a great year,” Kershaw said. “Not making the postseason, that’s kind of what we play for.”
The reigning NL Cy Young Award winner recorded 229 strikeouts, one behind NL leader R.A. Dickey of the New York Mets. The left-hander became the first pitcher to lead the league in ERA in consecutive seasons since Arizona’s Randy Johnson in 2001-02.
Kershaw became the first Dodgers pitcher to do so since Sandy Koufax accomplished the feat from 1962-66.
“I don’t care,” he said about his ERA crown. “It was fun to get a win and hopefully build off these last nine games.”
Dodgers slugger Matt Kemp struck out twice to end the season 0 for 10 with seven strikeouts in the three-game series, which the Dodgers won, 2-1, giving them four straight series victories for the first time this season.
Afterward, Kemp announced he will have left shoulder surgery Friday. He has a torn labrum.
“They’re going to see what’s going on inside of there and hopefully just clean it up,” the right-handed hitter said. “If they need to do more, they’ll do more, but I won’t know anything until I wake up.”
Gonzalez finished on a 15-game hitting streak, longest on the team he joined from Boston on Aug. 25. He drove in Andre Ethier, who doubled, with two outs to give the Dodgers a 2-1 lead. They tied the game 1-1 on Kershaw’s RBI single in the fifth — the Dodgers’ first hit off Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong, who also retired his first 10 batters.
“Kept me about .200 for the year,” said a smiling Kershaw, who actually hit .207. “It was a big hit.”
Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth for his 26th save in 32 chances.
Clay Hensley (4-5) gave up one run and two hits in one inning to take the loss for the Giants, who open the NL division series on Saturday against Cincinnati.
Giants catcher Buster Posey went 0 for 2, finishing the regular season with a .336 average to claim the NL batting title. He’s the first Giants player to win it since Barry Bonds in 2004 and the first Giants catcher to do so. The previous catcher to win the NL title was Boston’s Ernie Lombardi, who hit .330 in 1942.
“I don’t think it’s something that you ever think about doing,” Posey said. “It’s such a long season, and from day one, you try to grind out at-bats no matter what the situation is. And if you can go up there and are able to make some adjustments, good things will happen.”
The Dodgers made it 5-1 in the eighth on homers by Alex Castellanos and Juan Rivera, who had a two-run shot.
San Francisco led 1-0 in the fourth on Posey’s RBI groundout to shortstop, scoring Marco Scutaro, who singled to extend his hitting streak to 20 games.
Vogelsong allowed one run on two hits in five innings, struck out seven and walked one. NOTES: The Giants will start RHP Matt Cain in the opener of the NL division series against Cincinnati on Saturday, and LHP Madison Bumgarner in Game 2 on Sunday. … Scutaro joined 3B Pablo Sandoval and CF Angel Pagan as the first trio of Giants with 20-plus-game hitting streaks in a season since 1918. … Dodgers manager Don Mattingly used his everyday lineup with one exception. C A.J. Ellis got the day off and was replaced by rookie Tim Federowicz. … Ellis finished his first full season in the major leagues with a .270 average, 13 home runs and 52 RBIs. … The Dodgers’ season attendance of 3,324,246 was third-best in the NL. … Dodgers organist Nancy Bea Hefley signed a three-year contract extension. … Wednesday marked the 61st anniversary of Bobby Thomson’s pennant-clinching home run off Dodgers pitcher Ralph Branca, known as the “Shot heard ’round the world.”