Clayton Kershaw makes his Cy Young closing statement in 6-2 win
Clayton Kershaw did his part. Laid it all out there, left his great numbers to stand like small monuments to his memorable season.
Kershaw won his final start of the season Sunday afternoon, as the Dodgers beat the Padres, 6-2, in San Diego. Kershaw all but clinched the pitching triple crown, and very likely the Cy Young award.
The victory left him 21-5 on the season, with a 2.28 earned-run average and 248 strikeouts. The ERA and strikeout total lead the National League, and the 21 victories tie Kershaw for the lead with the Arizona Diamondbacks' Ian Kennedy.
The 11 previous winners of the pitching triple crown all won the Cy Young award.
Kershaw, 23, went 7 1/3 innings against the Padres, holding them to two runs on four hits and a walk and striking out six.
Kershaw's main challengers for the Cy Young award are Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Kennedy.
Lee is scheduled to start Monday at Atlanta and is 16-8 with a 2.38 ERA and 217 strikeouts. He would have to pitch 10 2/3 scoreless innings to catch Kershaw in ERA and deprive him of the triple crown.
The triple crown would seem a lock for Kershaw, and then comes all that favorable history. His 248 strikeouts are sixth all-time on the Los Angeles Dodgers list and the most since Sandy Koufax had 317 in 1966. The last Dodger to win 21 games was Orel Hershiser in 1988.
The hitting triple crown that Matt Kemp still had an outside shot at, however, appears to have taken a death blow.
Kemp went one for five Sunday, dropping his batting average to .324 in his fading quest for the batting title. Meanwhile, leader Ryan Braun of the Milwaukee Brewers went two for three, lifting his average to .333, and the New York Mets' Jose Reyes went two for four and is batting .331.
Kemp leads the NL with 120 runs batted in, and he is tied for the home run lead with the St. Louis Cardinals' Albert Pujols at 37.
The Dodgers play their final three games of the season starting Monday at Arizona.
Aaron Miles and Rod Barajas each drove in two runs Sunday in support of Kershaw, Barajas' coming on his 16th home run of the season.
Kershaw's biggest assist, however, came from lights-out reliever Kenley Jansen in the eighth after Kershaw gave up a double to Orlando Hudson and a run-scoring triple to Alberto Gonzalez.
Kershaw left with a 6-2 lead, one out and a runner on third -- a runner who could prove important in Kershaw's battle with Lee for the ERA title. All Jansen did was strike out the next two Padres. Jansen is averaging an impressive 16.1 strikeouts per nine innings.
-- Steve Dilbeck
Photos: (Top) Clayton Kershaw is congratulated by teammates and coaches, and given a standing ovation by Dodgers and Padres fans, after exiting the game in San Diego in the eighth inning Sunday. Credit: Chris Park / Associated Press. (Bottom) Clayton Kershaw delivers a pitch against the Padres on Sunday in San Diego. Credit: Chris Park / Associated Press