Dodgers complete sweep of Rays with 8-2 win

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers are showing no signs of slowing down.

Clayton Kershaw lowered his major
league-leading ERA to 1.88 with eight innings of three-hit ball and had a
two-run single, and the Dodgers increased their NL West lead to a
season-best 7 games Sunday night with an 8-2 victory over the Tampa Bay
Rays.

“When you rattle off a streak like the
one we’re on right now, it’s probably a little more than luck,” Kershaw
said. “We’re a pretty good team right now, and it’s a lot of fun coming
to the yard every day and winning games. I think the guys in this
clubhouse realize that we’ve got a pretty good opportunity here that we
don’t want to waste.”

Mark Ellis had a homer and three RBIs to
help Los Angeles complete the three-game sweep. The Dodgers improved to
a major league-best 37-8 since June 22, including a franchise-record
15-game road winning streak. At the lowest point, they trailed Arizona
by 9 games.

“We’ve got 40-plus games left and we
play the Diamondbacks a lot more, so it doesn’t really matter what kind
of lead we have now,” Kershaw said.

The Rays lost their season-worst fifth
in a row, but remained three games behind AL East-leading Boston
following the Red Sox’s loss at Kansas City.

“It definitely adds confidence,” catcher
A.J. Ellis said after the Dodgers improved to a season-best 17 games
over .500. “We’ve been playing two of the better teams in baseball this
week, including the Cardinals — and Tampa Bay was one of the hottest
teams in the American League coming in. So this was a big stretch for
us.”

Kershaw (11-7) allowed two runs — one
earned — and struck out eight to help the Dodgers complete their
seventh series sweep of the season. Tampa Bay’s only hits off the
left-hander through the first seven innings came in the fifth, a leadoff
single by Yunel Escobar and a two-out triple by pinch-hitter Sam Fuld.

The Rays loaded the bases with none out
in the eighth and rookie Wil Myers drove in their second run with a
sacrifice fly. The run was unearned because of shortstop Dee Gordon’s
fielding error. Gordon also committed throw errors in the third and
sixth innings, but Kershaw erased both mistakes by retiring the next
batter on a double-play grounder.

The Dodgers finished their interleague
schedule 11-6, their first winning record against AL clubs since going
10-8 in 2004, and the Rays completed their interleague slate 12-8.
Kershaw is 6-3 with a 2.67 ERA in 17 career interleague starts, striking
out 116 batters in 111 1-3 innings.

Jeremy Hellickson (10-6) gave up four
runs and seven hits through three innings in his first career start
against the Dodgers, marking the sixth time in Tampa Bay’s last nine
games that its starting pitcher didn’t last five innings.

The right-hander’s 4.93 ERA is the
highest among major league pitchers with at least 10 wins. Hellickson
has surrendered 13 runs in 12 innings over his last three starts, after
going 6-0 with a 2.09 ERA in his previous seven outings. He is 1-6 with a
7.19 ERA in 10 career interleague outings.

“I’m not pitching well,” Hellickson
said. “The last few games I’ve been in spots where I need to make a big
pitch with two out to get me deeper into the game, and every time I
didn’t get the job done. Tonight I felt good with all three of my
pitches and I thought the command was there, but I lust left some balls
up in that second inning and couldn’t get that big out with two outs.
The last two weeks have been very frustrating, but I’ll be OK.”

Andre Ethier and A.J. Ellis opened the
Dodgers’ three-run second inning with singles, and both advanced on Juan
Uribe’s third sacrifice bunt of the season before Kershaw drove them in
with a sharp two-out single through the left side of the infield. Carl
Crawford then singled and Mark Ellis doubled home Kershaw.

“We watched a lot of film on
Hellickson. This guy’s got an amazing sinker, works both sides of the
plate, and when his changeup is right is really a difference maker,”
A.J. Ellis said. “But tonight we were just looking for balls up in the
middle of the zone.”

A.J. Ellis made it 4-0 in the third
with a sacrifice fly, and the Dodgers tacked on two more in the fourth
on a two-out double by Adrian Gonzalez that raised his team-high RBI
total to 74. Mark Ellis added his sixth homer in the sixth, a two-run
shot against Josh Lueke.

“It was a fun night all the way
around,” Kershaw said. “We got some big hits when we needed to and put
some runs on the board early. But the important thing is that we got a
win.”

Kershaw faced an all-right-handed
lineup that included switch-hitters Ben Zobrist and Jose Lobaton. Tampa
Bay manager Joe Maddon had his starting pitcher bat eighth ahead of left
fielder Jason Bourgeois.

Hellickson, who came in with one hit in
five big league at-bats, struck out looking his only time up. He was
the fourth AL pitcher to bat higher than ninth since interleague play
began in 1977, along with David Phelps for the Yankees on May 8, Zack
Greinke for Kansas City in 2009, and Andy Sonnanstine for the Rays in
2009.

Sonnanstine had to bat third that day
because of a lineup mistake by Maddon that had Zobrist and Evan Longoria
both starting at third base. As a result, the Rays were forced to lose
their designated hitter — Longoria — for the entire game.

NOTES:
Kershaw is 49-0 in his career when the Dodgers score four or more runs
while he is still in the game. … Los Angeles’ Yasiel Puig was
intentionally walked for the fourth time in the series — two more than
he had in his 57 previous big league games combined.