Clayton Kershaw gave up a leadoff homer and later balked in another run in the seventh inning. Young shortstop Corey Seager made two errors in the seventh before the Los Angeles Dodgers' bullpen barely avoided yet another ninth-inning collapse.
And yet ...
"It seemed like this was probably the best pure baseball game I feel like we've played," Kershaw said.
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At least the Dodgers' ace found artistic merit in their 6-4 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Tuesday night, and not just because their fifth straight win kept them steamrolling toward the playoffs.
Kershaw yielded four hits over seven innings to win his eighth consecutive decision, and Justin Ruggiano hit a leadoff homer in the Dodgers' 13th victory in 15 games. Seager had a run-scoring double during the Dodgers' four-run sixth inning in their eighth consecutive win over their Freeway Series rivals.
Kershaw (13-6) is unbeaten since June 27 after striking out eight and allowing one earned run. The reigning NL MVP is 8-0 in his last 11 starts with a 0.93 ERA and 112 strikeouts, and he saw beauty in his teammates' resilient performance.
"Just as far as doing the little things, moving guys over, sac flies, situational hitting, things like that, it seemed like it was just so easy to score runs tonight, and not necessarily just the big hits," Kershaw said. "That was awesome to see."
Ruggiano and Seager had two hits apiece as the Dodgers (80-58) moved to a season-best 22 games over .500 and maintained their healthy 8 1/2 game lead over the San Francisco Giants in the NL West.
It got interesting late: David Freese of the Angels had a run-scoring double in the ninth off Pedro Baez, and David DeJesus added an RBI groundout before Kenley Jansen finished off his 31st save by striking out Kole Calhoun.
"I feel good about the way we're playing," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "Tonight's game, we were doing what it takes. You can't ask anything more than your guys coming ready to play."
Calhoun hit a leadoff homer for the Angels (69-69), who dropped back to .500 with their 12th loss in 18 games. Rookie left-hander Andrew Heaney (6-3) couldn't match Kershaw, yielding six hits and five runs.
Reigning AL MVP Mike Trout flied out, struck out and walked against the Dodgers' dominant left-hander. Trout is 0 for 16 with eight strikeouts in his last four games against the Dodgers overall.
Kershaw settled in after allowing Calhoun's 23rd homer in the first. He balked home a run during a rocky seventh before striking out Calhoun with the bases loaded to end it, getting a borderline call on Calhoun's half-swing.
"Obviously, you want things to go your way, but it's not right now," said Calhoun, who struck out three times in the final four innings. "I got plenty of pitches to hit in each at-bat, and you've got to put those balls in play."
Heaney has one victory in his last eight starts despite solid numbers. Seager, the Dodgers' promising 21-year-old shortstop, chased him with a ground-rule double to right.
"I had to pitch better than I did," Heaney said. "Obviously, (Kershaw) is going pitch well, but our guys were grinding out at-bats, and I should be doing the same on the mound."
Third base umpire Tripp Gibson ruled Calhoun had swung at the third strike to end the seventh, although replays appeared to disagree. Gibson then ejected Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who berated Gibson repeatedly on the field.
"If you looked at the replay, I think it was pretty obvious that he checked his swing," Scioscia said. "The ump had a different opinion, and that's it."
Dodgers: C Yasmani Grandal will miss a few more games with inflammation in his left shoulder. ... 2B Howie Kendrick took part in a simulated game at Angel Stadium while rehabilitating his hamstring.
Angels: 1B Albert Pujols has only inflammation in his sore right foot. He plans to keep playing, albeit as a designated hitter.
Dodgers: Mat Latos (4-9, 4.92 ERA) gets a chance to shut down the Angels again after a one-run effort against them Aug. 2. The rest of his starts for the Dodgers have been unimpressive.
Angels: Garrett Richards (13-10, 3.77 ERA) goes after his second victory on the homestand. He threw a shutout in his last start against the Dodgers last season.