Cardinals-Dodgers Preview

Clayton Kershaw probably wants to get on with tracking down the NL West division lead as Los Angeles inches closer to the All-Star break, but it’s going to be difficult to say goodbye to June.

He’ll do so Sunday at home as the Dodgers try to take three of four from the St. Louis Cardinals in his final outing of the month.

Kershaw (8-2, 2.24 ERA) is 5-0 with a 0.97 ERA, 0.62 WHIP and .159 opponent average in June, all MLB bests, and is looking to win six straight starts for the first time in his career. The left-hander followed his June 18 no-hitter by yielding six hits and striking out eight in eight innings of a 2-0 win in Kansas City on Tuesday.

Kershaw then described the one-walk effort as "erratic," and catcher A.J. Ellis has come to know why the two-time NL Cy Young winner expects more of himself.

"That’s what makes him different and special. His dedication to the routine and unwavering desire to win. It will keep him separate for a long time," Ellis told MLB’s official website.

"I tried to keep up with him in the past. Now just watching him and I get tired. Tomorrow he’ll start preparing for Sunday and St. Louis. … As humans and athletes, we get lazy and selfish and stupid. He never does that."

Kershaw, though, has rarely imposed his will on St. Louis, losing his last three outings with a 4-5 career mark in 12 starts with a 3.75 ERA. It’s one of two losing records versus a given team and his highest ERA against any club he’s faced more than three times.

Matt Holliday is 9 for 30 (.300) against Kershaw, and of the 14 players with at least 30 at-bats against him, only Dexter Fowler and Angel Pagan have a higher average.

Kershaw faces Shelby Miller, whose recent work might better fit Kershaw’s characterization. Miller (7-6, 3.75) has issued 12 walks over 16 innings in his last three starts, including a career high-tying five in 2 2-3 innings of Tuesday’s 10-5 loss in Colorado. He surrendered three runs and six hits while managing to escape without the decision in a start cut short by back spasms.

He’s 1-0 with a 4.26 ERA in two starts and one relief appearance against the Dodgers. Adrian Gonzalez is 2 for 4 with a home run against Miller.

After scoring two runs in the first two games of the series, Los Angeles (46-37) broke out with 15 hits in a 9-1 victory Saturday. Dee Gordon went 3 for 5 and is 11 for 17 in his last four. He’s also batting .462 on a seven-game hitting streak against St. Louis.

The Dodgers have now won nine of 12 thanks in large part to a 2.11 team ERA with 17 straight scoreless innings out of the bullpen over the last seven games.

The Cardinals (44-38) have scored four runs with a .191 average in the series, which makes Jhonny Peralta’s exclusion from Saturday’s lineup quite puzzling. The shortstop had an eight-game hitting streak before being hit by a pitch in a pinch-hit appearance and is batting .333 with a .420 on-base percentage over 14 games.

"It is a good time for me, and I’m swinging pretty good right now," Peralta said.

Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez returned Saturday from a four-game absence due to an arthritic shoulder, but then exited due to a tight calf. Third baseman Justin Turner also left with a strained left hamstring. But given their next starting pitcher, there might be less concern with who isn’t in the lineup for the series finale.

As for moving on from June, there’s little to worry about with their ace. The best statistical months of Kershaw’s career – July and September – are yet to come.