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Clayton Kershaw proves he's back in gear with return to action

LOS ANGELES -- All the panic can subside. Clayton Kershaw is still his normal, healthy, extraordinary self.

After being pushed back from his original Wednesday start and again from his rescheduled Friday turn, there might have been significant concern among the Los Angeles Dodgers faithful, and pessimists in general, that Kershaw's sore right hip was more than just a passing irritation. That worry was heightened by the fact the Dodgers did not trade for a front-line starter before Friday's non-waiver deadline.

Kershaw's answer was to simultaneously shut down the Los Angeles Angels and the fright about his health Saturday afternoon with eight shutout innings. He extended his scoreless streak to 37 innings while pushing the first-place Dodgers to a 3-1 victory at Dodger Stadium, their third in a row.

Kershaw became the first pitcher since Luis Tiant in 1972 to produce multiple single-season scoreless streaks of at least 37 innings, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Kershaw's first streak lasted 41 innings last season. This latest outing also made Kershaw the first pitcher since Orel Hershiser in 1988 to produce four consecutive starts of at least eight scoreless innings.

In his past 12 starts, Kershaw has a 1.09 ERA, 119 strikeouts and 12 walks, with Saturday's outing coming on eight days' rest. And if we are being nitpicky about things, this outing -- complete with two hits, seven strikeouts and a walk -- was his worst since July 3 when he went seven and allowed one run, a walk and struck out seven.

"He seemed a little bit rusty, honestly, early. Just command-wise," manager Don Mattingly said, blaming Kershaw's layoff. "It had been eight days since he pitched, but he got better as the game went on. His pitch count was up early, but he got it in line."

Another dominant start can take the focus off Kershaw's hip, which sidelined him in 2012 but never led to time on the disabled list. Mattingly insisted the team would not chance it with their ace and send him out at less than 100 percent. Kershaw co-signed that sentiment with his words and performance.

"It's crazy what two or three days off will do," Kershaw said. "I don't like days off, apparently. ... If I know they're coming I can deal with it, but this was a little bit different. Overall it worked out.

"I felt fine," he added.

Once Kershaw's health issues were put to bed, his scoreless innings streak became the postgame topic. His is the second such for the Dodgers this season, with Zack Greinke's 45⅔ consecutive innings, which ended last Sunday in New York, the reigning champion on the staff.

Like Greinke, though, Kershaw refused to give the run too much attention -- or any at all. He was asked if he was cognizant of it while he pitched, and he relied on his teammate for his stock answer.

"What did Zack say?" Kershaw asked before being told Greinke consistently brushed off the inquiry. "Well there you go."

Catcher Yasmani Grandal, who hit his 15th home run of the season that ended up being the deciding factor in the game aside from Kershaw, elaborated a little more on the subject.

"You can't really think about it, you know? This is a game that if you think about too many things and you try to be perfect all the time, at some point, you're going to give something up," Grandal said. "When Zack had the streak going, you didn't even think about it. You just kept on doing whatever it is you were doing. You never tried to change anything, pitching to his strengths.

"Now that Kersh has another streak going, it's the same thing. It's going out there and trying to put up zeros."