WASHINGTON -- Clayton Kershaw made his U.S. debut after a six-week stay on the disabled list because of a strained muscle in his upper back, a souvenir of the Dodgers' opening trip to Australia. The ace dazzled in his comeback, an 8-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
How it happened: Kershaw was Kershaw, relentless and focused, looking as sharp as he had since his second-to-last start in October.
He breezed through the early innings and, when runners got on base, he bore down. That's kind of his thing. When Washington got two men on in the fourth inning, Kershaw struck out Scott Hairston and Ian Desmond. When Jayson Werth got into scoring position in the sixth, he reached for a devastating breaking ball and struck out the same two guys again.
Kershaw got through seven innings in only 89 pitches, striking out nine batters and pitching around nine hits.
Hits: The Dodgers' slow offensive start this season was entirely the result of struggles from the four rotating outfielders and Hanley Ramirez -- in other words, the heart of the order not named Adrian Gonzalez. Now, the heavy hitters are starting to get it going. Yasiel Puig was the first to heat up. Now, the others are catching on. Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier combined for seven hits and Ramirez was 3-for-5 with a long home run to center field. Kershaw plus these guys getting warm could equal a coming hot streak.
Misses: This series features the two most error-prone teams in the National League, with the Dodgers leading the pack comfortably. Washington seems intent on gaining on them. The Nationals looked awful in the field, their two errors opening the door for four unearned Dodgers runs. As if on cue, Ramirez answered, booting Danny Espinosa's seventh-inning grounder, Ramirez's sixth error this season. He had 13 all last year.
Up next: The Dodgers face Stephen Strasburg (2-2, 3.60 ERA) and that's never much fun. Don Mattingly gave Gonzalez the day off Tuesday and it's clear why. He needs him in Wednesday's lineup. Gonzalez is 3-for-6 with a double in his career against Strasburg while the rest of the Dodgers are batting .188 with 17 strikeouts in 48 at-bats off him. The Dodgers counter with ex-National Dan Haren (4-0, 2.39 ERA) in a game that starts at 10:05 a.m. PDT.