With his early-season struggles well behind him, red-hot Clayton Kershaw is playing a major role in helping the Los Angeles Dodgers pull away in the NL West.
As the ace tries to win his eighth straight decision, the Dodgers seek a 13th victory in 15 games Tuesday night when their series resumes against the Los Angeles Angels.
Since dropping three straight starts in June, Kershaw is 7-0 with a MLB-best 0.93 ERA over his last 11 outings. He leads the big leagues with 251 strikeouts after fanning 111 over 87 innings in that span.
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The three-time NL Cy Young winner tossed a six-hitter and matched a career high with 15 strikeouts in Wednesday's 2-1 home win over San Francisco. Now he'll try to help the Dodgers (79-58) add to their 8 1/2-game division lead following Monday's 7-5 win.
With 29 strikeouts in his last two outings, Kershaw (12-6, 2.18 ERA) needs 13 to pass Sandy Koufax (1959) for the franchise's most in a three-start span since 1914. After fanning 39 over his past three, he'll pass Hideo Nomo's four-game mark ('95) with 12.
"When he puts up numbers like this, striking out 14, 15, it's what you expect him to do," catcher Yasmani Grandal told MLB's official website.
Kershaw has struck out seven in both his starts against the Angels since 2011. In his only meeting this season, he gave up two hits in eight scoreless of a 3-1 home win Aug. 1.
Albert Pujols has had success versus Kershaw with a .435 average in 23 career at-bats. Pujols went 3 for 5 with an RBI on Monday, while Kole Calhoun and C.J. Cron homered.
The Angels, though, have hit .193 and totaled 17 runs while dropping seven straight in the Freeway Series. Mike Trout his 3 for 25 with nine strikeouts in his last six meetings.
The Angels are 5 1/2 behind AL West-leading Houston and 3 1/2 out of a playoff spot.
They'll try to push some runs across for Andrew Heaney, who has worked his way into the AL Rookie of the Year discussion by allowing two runs or less in 10 of his 13 starts.
After giving up a career-high eight runs over 3 1-3 innings in a 15-3 home loss to Toronto on Aug. 22, Heaney (6-2, 3.18) has gone 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last two.
"I went ahead and looked at some of the stats of the other (Rookie of the Year candidates)," he said. "I don't put up amazing numbers, I don't punch out a lot of people, so I don't know."
The left-hander was traded from Miami to the Dodgers in December before getting dealt to the Angels (69-68) for Howie Kendrick just five hours later. In his only other start in the rivalry, he yielded two runs over 5 1-3 innings while opposing Kershaw last month.
Kendrick has been out the past month with a hamstring injury. Grandal is likely to be sidelined a few games with a sore left shoulder, while Jimmy Rollins is out because of a jammed finger.
Scott Van Slyke stepped up Monday with a career-high four hits and drove in four runs, while Joc Pederson matched a season high with three hits. Van Slyke had been hitting .167 over his previous 14 games and Pederson .111 in his prior 31.