LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw held up his end of the bargain Monday. It seems like he always does.
The Los Angeles Dodgers ace and early leader for the National League Cy Young Award struck out eight more batters, avoided walking anybody again and added another masterpiece in a 4-1 win over the Washington Nationals to a season full of them so far.
There was no letdown from the left-hander, even after the other half of this series-opening pitchers' duel bowed out because of upper back tightness. Stephen Strasburg was supposed to take his 10-0 record into Monday's game at Dodger Stadium, but a little more than an hour before first pitch, the duel was called off.
The Dodgers unleashed their backup plan. Two pitching studs were promised, so the Dodgers filled the entire bill. After Kershaw spun gold, Kenley Jansen pitched the ninth inning for his 20th save and 162nd save as a Dodger, which set the franchise record.
Pitching has been the Dodgers' only dependable asset this season, so celebrating it on multiple fronts Monday only seemed right.
"He's really good. We've been spoiled," Kershaw said of Jansen immediately after a hard night's work was finished. "It just feels like when the ninth inning rolls around, we have a win. And you can't take that for granted. I'm happy for him. He's had a nice career here so far, and hopefully there is more to come."
It made no difference to Kershaw that the Nationals' pitching stud was missing. The three-time Cy Young winner was dressed for the occasion and was intent to not spoil his night out on the town.
Kershaw had eight strikeouts in his seven innings of work. He missed out on double-digit strikeouts for just the third time in his past 12 outings. But he gave up one run or fewer in seven innings for the seventh time this year and ended the night with a 1.57 ERA, one point lower than when the evening started.
Kershaw is pointed straight toward a start in the July 12 All-Star Game at San Diego, and he is expected to have at least three more starts before the break.
"It's kind of a turn-key deal for me when Clayton takes the mound," manager Dave Roberts said. "There was a little bit of heat out there. You see him working a little extra tonight, but he got through seven innings."
Asked about dealing with a temperature of 96 degrees at first pitch, Kershaw scoffed a bit. He overcomes challenges by not letting them get into his head.
"This is L.A. It's not hot here," Kershaw said. "Where I grew up in Texas is hot. If this was a day game, it might have been a little different. Today, in the day, was a little rough, but once the sun went down, it was OK."
Kershaw improved to 11-1, but it was that digit in the loss column that seemed to be the jumping-off point for his success this season. On April 26, the Miami Marlins ripped Kershaw for five runs in seven innings, picking up all those runs in a brutal sixth inning.
Since then, Kershaw has been unbeatable. Over 10 starts since that lone defeat, Kershaw is 9-0 with a 1.15 ERA. He has limited opposing hitters to a .161 batting average in that time and has 101 strikeouts with four walks in 78 innings. If that rough evening nearly two months ago is indeed what sharpened Kershaw's focus, it was doubtful that Strasburg's status change was going to make much of a difference.
"I guess I found out about an hour before the game," Kershaw said of his opponent's scratch. "I don't think anybody was seeking me out to tell me. It's not that big of a deal to me.
"I might not have given up a hit to him. I gave up a hit [to replacement starter Yusmeiro] Petit. ... No, [Strasburg] can actually hit a little bit to. That's tough. It matters a little bit in the National League, but otherwise, it's not that big of a deal."
Jansen might also have a moment of struggle that he can pinpoint as the start of his current success. He blew a save June 11 at San Francisco but since then has looked like a man on a mission. In five outings since that game against the Giants, Jansen has given up no runs and one hit.
His save Monday came on a perfect 1-2-3 inning with two strikeouts. He not only set the franchise save record, but he also became the first Dodgers closer with five seasons of 20 or more saves.
Afterward, he took a call from Eric Gagne, the former Dodgers closer he passed on the saves list. Gagne is expected to participate in a pregame ceremony for Jansen before Tuesday's game against the Nationals.
"He just congratulated me and said he felt really great that I passed him," Jansen said. "It felt really great that he told me to keep going, stay healthy and keep getting better. That's a great feeling to hear those words from him."
In a bit of symmetry, Jansen's franchise save record came on a night when Kershaw pitched. When Jansen recorded his first career save in 2010, Kershaw was also on the mound for a game against the New York Mets.
"Anytime Kershaw pitches, I feel like I have a great chance to get in there," Jansen said. "It's awesome to get my first save with him and to break the record with him pitching again."