SAN DIEGO -- Perhaps the best indication yet that Clayton Kershaw is finally blossoming into the dominating starting pitcher Dodgers officials have believed he would be came in his postgame comments Saturday night, just after he turned in his second consecutive masterful performance.
"To be honest, my command really wasn't that great," Kershaw said after he pitched the Dodgers to their sixth consecutive victory, 4-1 over the division-leading San Diego Padres, in front of a sellout crowd of 42,436 at Petco Park. "I guess I was what you call effectively wild. I didn't really hit my spots a whole lot, and I just kind of battled through. Really, I only had my fastball."
Whatever Kershaw had, it was enough to shut down the Padres on three hits in seven dazzling innings. After giving up a leadoff double to Yorvit Torrealba in the second, Kershaw retired the next 10 batters, striking out five of them. The only other hit he gave up afterward was a well-placed infield single by Scott Hairston in the sixth inning. (Hairston also singled in the first.) The Padres' only run off Kershaw came in the first inning on a fielder's choice grounder that missed being an inning-ending double play by no more than a split second.
If this was Kershaw at something less than his best, the Dodgers can only salivate over the thought of seeing him when he is right.
"He was very good," Dodgers manager Joe Torre said. "He threw a lot of pitches those first two innings, and it wasn't a sensational game. But he was just very businesslike out there. He got ahead early in counts. He is starting to get a good feel for when he needs to make a pitch.
"It is fun to watch him grow into his ability right now."
In two starts since being knocked out of the box by the Milwaukee Brewers on May 4, Kershaw has given up one run and five hits in 15 innings, striking out 16 and walking five. Both of those starts have come during a six-game winning streak by the third-place Dodgers (19-17) that has lifted them to within three games of the Padres in the National League West.
During that winning streak, which began with Kershaw's eight-inning masterpiece against Colorado on Sunday, the Dodgers' starting rotation is 5-0 with a 2.39 ERA.
although it certainly wasn't minor to Terry Whittington of Sanford, Mich., who is alive today only because Dodgers prospects Rafael Ynoa and Elisaul Pimentel, who play for the club's low-Class A Great Lakes affiliate in Midland, Mich., were in the right place at the right time.
According to the Midland Daily News, Ynoa and Pimentel were passengers in a car driving behind Whittington's motorcycle Sunday when the cycle crashed after striking a turkey that had wandered onto the road.
"He lost control of the motorcycle," Ynoa told the newspaper Friday. "It was bad. I was so scared. We thought he was dead. We ran, and we helped him."
The woman driving the car in which Ynoa and Pimentel were riding was a nurse who immediately directed the two on how to help her administer first aid.
"The lady told us to do something, and we just [did] it," Ynoa told the Daily News. "We just tried to help him until the ambulance came."
The accident initially left Whittington in a coma, but a relative told the Daily News he had improved significantly by the weekend.
Ynoa, 22 and an infielder, was hitting .300 with a .366 on-base percentage for Great Lakes through Saturday. Pimentel, 21 and a right-handed starter, is 2-2 with a 3.52 ERA in six starts for the Loons and has given up only one home run in 30 2/3 innings this season. Both are from the Dominican Republic.
"It just shows you what type of kids we have on the team, [seeing] a bad accident happen and getting out of the car and helping the driver, saving his life," Great Lakes manager Juan Bustabad told the Daily News. "It takes a lot of courage. [They're] two heroes, you know? Who knows [what would have happened] if they weren't there at that time? Life is all about timing. For the person that got hurt, he is lucky that these two players saved his life."
Scene and heard
Although many Dodgers fans always make the trek down the I-5 freeway whenever their favorite team plays at Petco Park, it is difficult to recall this many being there.
The crowds through the first two games have made it seem almost like a home series for the Dodgers, and although the Padres' primary color also is blue, it was impossible to ignore that the sold-out stands at each game seemed to be a sea of Dodger blue.
The final out of each Dodgers victory was greeted with the type of roar usually reserved for Dodger Stadium. The surprising part was the Padres are in first place in the NL West, meaning it could be reasonably expected that their own fans would come out in greater force than they have. But apparently not.
Quote of the day
"I'm disappointed in the fact that it's something this small. I have had other things that bothered me a lot more this year. I hurt my ankle at the beginning of the season and even my knee in spring training, and some other little things that usually bother me. But to have something this small kind of cause a little hiccup, it's frustrating." -- Dodgers right fielder Andre Ethier after being diagnosed with a broken bone in his right pinkie. It isn't immediately clear how much time he will miss, but he will be examined by team physician Dr. Neal ElAttrache and hand specialist Dr. Steve Shin on Sunday in Los Angeles.
Right-hander Chad Billingsley (3-2, 4.82 ERA) is 8-4 with a 2.71 ERA in 18 career appearances (14 starts) against the Padres and 3-2 with a 2.77 ERA at Petco Park, where he made his major league debut on June 15, 2006. Left-hander Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 1.61) has been outstanding in five starts since the Padres recalled him from Triple-A Portland on April 18, and the Padres are undefeated in those five games.
Tony Jackson covers the Dodgers for ESPNLosAngeles.com.