After another hit and a walk in the inning, the Los Angeles ace settled down nicely and retired his final 14 batters to help the Dodgers beat the Arizona Diamondbacks 4-3 Friday night.
Kershaw allowed three hits over seven innings and Rod Barajas snapped a scoreless tie in the fifth with a solo homer for the Dodgers, who won their third in a row and improved to 5-0 in one-run games at home.
"Rod and I were on a good page. I don't think I shook him off at all," Kershaw said. "I'm glad I didn't give up any runs in those first three innings to give our team a chance."
Arizona dropped its fifth straight, and set a franchise record with its last six losses by one run.
"We're losing one-run games like it's our job right now," Saunders said. "It seems like we turn on the jets in the eighth and ninth innings."
Kershaw (5-3) struck out a season-high 11, walked two and left with a 4-0 lead. He won his fourth straight start against Arizona.
"When he's throwing strike one, strike two, it's going to be a long night for whoever is facing him," said Barajas, adding that Kershaw's slider and curveball were especially effective.
"Being able to have both of those pitches be outstanding helped him tremendously," Barajas said.
The Diamondbacks added two more runs in the ninth off Vicente Padilla. Pinch-hitter Miguel Montero had a two-run single with one out, making it 4-3. Young walked with a runner on and two outs, chasing Padilla. Kenley Jansen came on to earn his first save of the season by striking out Melvin Mora, all on fastballs.
"The pressure is on the hitter most of the time," Jansen said, explaining his mindset as "just go out there and try to attack hitters and be ahead in the count."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly didn't want to linger on the roller coaster ride his bullpen went on.
"Once there's a `W' on the board, you walk away," he said. "Doesn't matter how you get it."
Saunders (0-5) gave up four runs -- three earned -- and six hits in 6 2/3 innings, struck out two and walked four in losing his career-high sixth straight decision. The left-hander hasn't won since Sept. 21 against Colorado, a span of 10 starts.
"I think I've pitched better than the numbers show. I keep falling short, but you've just got to keep your head up, control what you can control and go on from there," he said. "It's nice to get through a first inning with a zero. The last few times, the first inning has hurt me and I really tried to put the emphasis on that."
Barajas homered in the fifth when he sent a 1-1 pitch from Saunders over the wall in left field for his seventh of the season, tying Matt Kemp for the team lead.
"I know my job is to work behind the plate, but I've always said I can be a plus for teams offensively," Barajas said.
Kemp's flyball to right-center in the sixth sent Young scrambling back to the fence. He missed the ball as he got there and it fell for a double, allowing Jamey Carroll to score from first base. Barajas struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning.
The Dodgers added two runs in the seventh. Aaron Miles singled to deep short and Carroll scored on a throwing error to second base by Stephen Drew. Drew tried to get the force at second, where Kelly Johnson wasn't covering the bag.
Drew threw anyway and the ball got past Johnson, allowing Carroll to score and Miles to take third. Andre Ethier's infield RBI single made it 4-0. He has reached base either by a hit or a walk in 36 consecutive games.
"Kelly should have been at the base. You never want to make mistakes like that, even if you've won five in a row," D'backs manager Kirk Gibson said. "We didn't make the plays and we paid for it."
Mattingly expressed empathy for LHP Hong-Chih Kuo, on the 15-day DL for anxiety disorder. "I just know how bad guys feel for him. He works hard and has been through so much," Mattingly said, referring to Kuo's chronic elbow problems that led to four operations. "We just hope he can work through it." He said he doesn't know where Kuo will receive treatment. ... The Dodgers purchased the contract of INF Juan Castro from Triple-A Albuquerque and optioned INF Ivan De Jesus to Triple-A. To make room on the 40-man roster, the Dodgers transferred C Hector Gimenez to the 60-day DL. ... Saunders' 0-5 start ties Yusmeiro Petit (2009), Russ Ortiz (2006) and Brian Anderson (2002) among D'backs starters.