LOS ANGELES — Comparing the efforts of Clayton Kershaw is a bit like being a judge at a beauty contest.
The Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander turned in a tight, brisk and complete-game effort Sunday in a 5-2 win, striking out 13 and limiting the Kansas City Royals to six hits. Kershaw (14-2) did not issue a walk and he didn’t have a three-ball count until the last batter of the game. He needed just 99 pitches, 73 of them strikes, to subdue the Royals.
It was Kershaw’s major league-leading 14th win, and he becomes the first Dodger to go into the break with 14 wins or more since Sandy Koufax won 15 in 1966. Los Angeles is 17-2 in Kershaw’s 19 starts, and this was his 16th quality start of the season. In his last 13 starts, he’s 10-0 with a 1.98 ERA and .187 opponents’ batting average.
Kershaw’s effort was a major league first, too — no pitcher has ever had 13 or more strikeouts in a complete game while throwing under 100 pitches.
Eric Hosmer was the only wart, the Royals’ first baseman getting three of the six hits, including a two-run home run — his 12th of the season. He extended his hitting streak to 15 games.
“It’s a good way to end the first half,” said Kershaw, who will attend his seventh All-Star Game Tuesday. “They were very aggressive so I was able to keep the pitch count low. The bullpen has had to throw a lot of innings this week so it was good to give them a rest.”
“He was Clayton-esque,” manager Dave Roberts said of Kershaw’s performance. “The low pitch count was a combination of their being aggressive and Clayton’s efficiency in throwing strikes. We really wanted him to finish it.”
Justin Turner hit a pair of home runs, giving him 10 on the season, and catcher Austin Barnes hit one in the fifth.
It was Kershaw’s first complete game in a season in which the Dodgers count pitches like a banker counts bills. As an example of their cautious attitude, Kershaw won’t pitch again for more than week. Los Angeles won’t use him in the first series after the break against Miami.
The Dodgers go into the All-Star Game break with the best record in the majors at 61-29, a pace that projects to 109 wins. The win Sunday was their 26th in their last 30 games, and they are 18-1 in their last 19 home games and 39-11 on the season at Dodger Stadium, a .780 percentage that is better than the club record for a full season (1953, 60-17, .779).
It was Los Angeles’ 10th series sweep of the season, and 54th time in 90 games the pitching staff has allowed three runs or less in a game. The Royals lost just their second series in their last 11 and have dropped three straight since launching an 18-6 run of success on June 2.
“We’re an aggressive team,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “We got behind in counts early and didn’t have many good swings. He’s a great pitcher and they’re a great team. We came in here on a roll and they shut us down (seven runs in three games).”
Turner hit a solo home run in the first and finished a three-run third with his second of the game and 10th of 2017 with a two-run shot. A Trayce Thompson triple and Logan Forsythe single scored the other run in the third.
With one on, Hosmer slugged his 12th home run to left-center to cut the Dodgers’ lead to 4-2. Barnes homered in the sixth, his fifth, to make it 5-2.
“When it’s hot and there’s a little breeze, the ball flies pretty good,” Turner said of his two home runs. “I haven’t made any adjustments for home runs. Sometimes they go over the fence, sometimes they don’t. I’ve probably had 30 flies to the warning track this season.”
Kershaw answered a question about the Dodgers’ hot streak and was philosophical in his response.
“How long is a hot streak? Or is it just us?” he said. “We’ll find out.”
NOTES: Aside from the three home runs, Royals starter Danny Duffy (5-5) pitched well. He allowed six hits and struck out nine. … Home plate umpire Kerwin Danley was hit on his mask near the forehead with a foul tip in the first inning and crumpled into the arms of Royals catcher Drew Butera. He finished the half-inning and then went for medical tests. Adam Hamari replaced him behind the plate … The Dodgers rested SS Corey Seager, C Yasmani Grandal and OF Joc Pederson. … The Royals sat out C Salvador Perez, OF Jeff Gordon and 3B Mike Moustakas. … Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said LHP Clayton Kershaw would not pitch in the first series after the break. “With Clayton, we’ve pushed him pretty hard in the first half,” Roberts said. “We have sort of built in some rest for some guys and there have been injuries that have created short rest for starters. Clayton is the one guy we have to be mindful of as well. To potentially give him a few extra days and using the break, makes sense.”