LOS ANGELES (AP) — Clayton Kershaw pleaded his case for manager Joe Torre to let him pitch the ninth inning. It was the only thing the left-hander failed at Thursday night.
Rafael Furcal hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the seventh inning to lift Kershaw and the Los Angeles Dodgers over the Chicago Cubs 3-2 in their series opener.
“That was a good one,” Kershaw said. “When I got ahead of hitters I was able to put them away for the most part. If you can get those first couple innings out of the way with a low pitch count, you can stay in the game. They proved they could hit a fastball, so I went to the off-speed stuff.”
Kershaw (9-4) struck out a season-high 12 — one off his career best — in eight innings, tying his longest outing. The 22-year-old left-hander allowed two runs and seven hits for his second straight win, and didn’t walk anyone for the second time in his career.
“He’s always learning something. That’s the best compliment I could pay this kid,” Torre said. “He’s able to throw more than one pitch for a strike. He’s got a lot of weapons out there.”
Jonathan Broxton worked a scoreless ninth for his 19th save in 21 chances and the Dodgers won for the fourth time in six games.
All-Star Marlon Byrd went 3 for 4 for the Cubs, whose three-game winning streak was snapped.
“I was bound to get Byrd out,” Kershaw said he told Torre in trying to complete the game.
Byrd said, “Kershaw’s very tough. He pounds the zone and doesn’t walk guys. When I first came up, I tried to wait him out. But you can’t do that anymore. He makes you swing the bat.”
Furcal’s season-long 10-game hitting streak ended in a 4-0 loss to Florida on Wednesday night, when he was hitless in four at-bats, but he picked right back up against the Cubs. He had three hits and got hit by a pitch.
His 15th homer came on the first pitch from Randy Wells (4-7). It sailed inches inside the foul pole in right field and gave the Dodgers a 3-2 lead. Russell Martin, who led off with a single and was sacrificed to second, also scored.
“I knew I hit it pretty good. I tried to push it and the ball got inside the line,” Furcal said. “In that situation I don’t try to do too much.”
Furcal has hit safely in 11 of his last 12 games, batting .500 with 17 runs, four homers and 15 RBIs since June 26, two days after Furcal returned from the bereavement list after his father died.
“He’s made such a big difference in our ballclub,” Torre said.
Wells gave up three runs and six hits in seven innings, struck out seven and walked one in falling to 0-3 against the Dodgers.
Furcal had Wells second-guessing himself on the home run pitch.
“It was a pretty good poke,” Wells said. “To go with your fourth-best pitch there and get beat like that is a tough thing to swallow. I could have gone with a sinker away or a changeup away.”
The Dodgers led 1-0 in the first after James Loney’s RBI single scored Furcal, who doubled leading off.
The Cubs tied it in the second on Alfonso Soriano’s 15th homer on the first pitch from Kershaw. They took a 2-1 lead in the fourth on Geovany Soto’s RBI single.
“This is not an easy park to hit in,” Cubs manager Lou Piniella said. “Runs are at a premium, and when you have leads you’ve got to hold onto them.”
NOTES: Dodgers LF Manny Ramirez will begin a rehab assignment as a DH with Class-A Inland Empire on Saturday. Torre said Ramirez should be ready to return after the All-Star break. The slugger is on the DL with a strained right hamstring. … The Dodgers took a 1,019-1,017 lead in the all-time series between the teams that began in 1890. … RHP Ronald Belisario wasn’t at the stadium Thursday, a day after the Dodgers placed him on the restricted list for personal reasons. Torre said he remained in the dark about Belisario’s absence and is treating it like an injury.