The reigning NL MVP and three-time Cy Young Award winner allowed one hit and struck out 11 in eight innings against his postseason nemesis, and the Dodgers beat the Cardinals 2-0 Saturday night with a go-ahead double from Yasiel Puig in his return from the disabled list.
Kershaw (5-3) outpitched Jaime Garcia and lowered his ERA to 3.36. The left-hander led the majors in that category each of the past four seasons.
"I was just throwing strikes and hoping for the best," Kershaw said. "I just executed some fastballs away that were pretty well located and tough to put a bat on. This was probably the best slider-curveball combination I've had in a while, so tonight I felt like I could use both -- which helped."
Kershaw lost to St. Louis in the finale of the 2013 NL Championship Series and the final game of the 2014 Division Series, making him 0-4 with a 7.15 ERA in his past four playoff starts against the Cardinals. During the regular season, he is 6-5 with a 3.18 ERA in 15 starts against them.
"We've got such a history with those guys these last few years, especially in the playoffs," Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. "That's a really good team, a really competitive team, and there's not many secrets between us and them, so it comes down to executing. And that was probably the best game Clayton's had all year, as far as execution goes. It was a lot of fun to be back there catching him."
Kershaw struck out Mark Reynolds, Yadier Molina, Pete Kozma and Peter Bourjos -- all looking -- in a span of five batters during the second and third. He allowed his only hit in the second on a sharp single by Randal Grichuk that was just out of the reach of shortstop Jimmy Rollins.
"He was tough, man. He was throwing all of his pitches for strikes," Reynolds said. "He kept me off balance all night. He was pitching away from his tendencies. He threw a lot of fastballs away, which he normally doesn't do. And when you're looking inside, it's tough to pull the trigger on the pitch away."
Kershaw threw 75 of 106 pitches for strikes, but one of his fastballs hit Matt Carpenter on the right triceps in the first inning. The Cardinals' third baseman played three innings in the field and struck out in the fourth before coming out of the game.
In the opener of last year's Division Series, Carpenter homered and hit a three-run double against Kershaw.
Kenley Jansen pitched a perfect ninth for his fifth save in as many chances. It was his first appearance since sitting out Wednesday's game at Colorado because of high blood pressure caused by the altitude in Denver.
Puig snapped a scoreless tie in the seventh with an RBI double against Garcia (1-3) after missing the previous 39 games because of a strained left hamstring.
Garcia allowed two runs and six hits over seven innings. He struck out six and walked none in his fourth start of the season after missing the first 40 games while recovering from thoracic outlet surgery. The Cardinals have been shut out in three of his outings.
"Kershaw's the best pitcher in the game, so you know you've got to bring your best," Garcia said. "It was a tough one. That's always a tough team to play against. They've got a good lineup over there, and I paid the consequences."
Chris Heisey led off the seventh with a double and scored on Puig's opposite-field hit to the fence in right-center. Justin Turner drove in Puig with a single that deflected off Kozma's glove at second base.
CATCHING UP WITH KERSHAW
Ellis started behind the plate for the 18th time this season and ninth with Kershaw on the mound. Kershaw is 2/3 with a 3.43 ERA when Ellis is the starting catcher and 2-0 with a 3.15 ERA in three starts with Yasmani Grandal as his batterymate.
Cardinals: RHP Lance Lynn (4-4) is 3-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his past five starts. He has yet to allow a home run in 26 career innings against the Dodgers.
Dodgers: RHP Zack Greinke (5-1) will try to bounce back from an ugly start at Colorado last Tuesday in which he gave up five runs and 10 hits in six innings and ended up with a no-decision. Prior to that, he yielded fewer than two runs in five consecutive outings, but was just 1-1 during that stretch.
- Home Plate Umpire - CB Bucknor
- First Base Umpire - Lance Barrett
- Second Base Umpire - Dale Scott
- Third Base Umpire - Dan Iassogna