Clayton Kershaw struggled and again the Los Angeles Dodgers failed to provide the necessary run support for their All-Star ace.
The left-hander had won three in a row and he took a 16-inning scoreless streak into Tuesday night’s start against the Chicago Cubs, only to falter early in a 3-2 defeat.
Kershaw (13-8) gave up two runs — one earned — and seven hits in 5-2/3 innings. He struck out nine and walked three in his shortest outing since going five innings on April 23 at the New York Mets.
He received two or fewer runs of support for the 15th time in 28 starts this season.
“You’re never going to have your best stuff every game, so you’ve got to figure out ways to get some guys out regardless,” Kershaw said. “There were too many guys on base, too many walks, too many times behind in the count. Unfortunately, I couldn’t go deeper into the game for our guys, but I was just trying to limit the damage.”
Cody Ransom hit Kershaw on the left ankle leading off the sixth and the pitcher departed the game four batters later after giving up a two-out single to Starlin Castro, who got two hits off Kershaw to end an none-for-13 career drought against him.
“He’s got electric stuff and to me he’s the best pitcher in the game,” said the Cubs’ Dioner Navarro, who was Kershaw’s personal catcher when he was with the Dodgers two years ago. “We got his pitch count up a little bit. It was a great group effort.”
After losing 6-2 against Zack Greinke in the series opener, the Cubs caught Kershaw on an off-night although his major league-leading ERA remained at 1.72.
Travis Wood outpitched Kershaw in the matchup of All-Star lefties, while Navarro and Castro had run-scoring singles to help the Cubs end an eight-game skid against first-placed Los Angeles.
In other National League games, Jonathon Niese pitched a three-hitter and had a three-run double, helping the New York Mets end a five-game losing streak with a 5-3 win over the Philadelphia Phillies, the St Louis Cardinals had a 6-1 win over the Cincinnati Reds, the Milwaukee Brewers edged the Pittsburgh Pirates 7-6 with Aramis Ramirez hitting his 350th career home run, the Arizona Diamondbacks got past the San Diego Padres 10-9 in 10 innings, the Washington Nationals held off the Miami Marlins 2-1 and the San Francisco Giants beat the Colorado Rockies 5-3.
In interleague play, rookie Alex Wood pitched five-plus strong innings and Elliot Johnson had a two-run triple as the Atlanta Braves held off the Cleveland Indians 2-0, improving the majors’ best record to 79-52.
In the American League, the Los Angeles Angels rallied from a four-run deficit to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-5, while the New York Yankees had a 7-1 win at the Toronto Blue Jays, despite losing Robinson Cano in the first inning.
Alfonso Soriano hit two home runs and Alex Rodriguez and Mark Reynolds also homered for the Yankees.
Cano sustained a bruised left hand after being struck by a pitch from left-hander J.A. Happ (3-4).
In Detroit, Michigan, Brandon Moss hit a tiebreaking two-run homer off Justin Verlander as the Oakland Athletics beat the Detroit Tigers 6-3 in a game cut short to five innings by rain.
The Texas Rangers had a 4-3 win over the Seattle Mariners, with Ian Kinsler scoring the go-ahead run on Danny Farquar’s balk in the 10th inning.
Elsewhere, the Kansas City Royals had a 6-1 win over the Minnesota Twins, while the Chicago White Sox edged the Houston Astros 4-3.