Though it seemed like a long shot during some of his early-season struggles, Clayton Kershaw has pitched himself back into the NL Cy Young conversation.
There's reason to believe he can pad his resume against the NL West's bottom feeders.
The left-hander faces the Colorado Rockies on Monday night looking to win his ninth straight decision and help the first-place Los Angeles Dodgers win their 16th in 20 games.
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Kershaw (13-6, 2.15 ERA) was having a subpar season by his own lofty standards after losing his third straight start in late June to fall to 5-6 with a 3.20 ERA.
The team's co-ace, however, has since returned to his lights-out form by going 8-0 with an 0.96 ERA over his past 12 starts. He won his third straight outing Tuesday, allowing one earned run over seven innings in a 6-4 win at the Los Angeles Angels.
Seeking his second straight Cy Young, Kershaw has snuck up on teammate Zack Greinke, who leads the majors with a 1.61 ERA, and Chicago's Jake Arrieta and his MLB-high 19 wins.
"Clayton's in a groove, that's for sure," catcher A.J. Ellis told MLB's official website.
The 27-year-old, who has a baseball-best 259 strikeouts, looks to keep it going as he tries to help Los Angeles to its fourth straight win and 19th in 24 home games in the opener of this 10-game stay.
The Dodgers wrapped up a 7-3 trip with Sunday's 4-3 victory at Arizona. They own a half-game lead on the East-leading New York Mets for home-field advantage in a potential NL division series matchup.
Kershaw is 8-0 with a 2.62 ERA over his last nine meetings with the Rockies and 8-2 with a 1.60 mark in 13 career matchups at Chavez Ravine. He's gone 3-0 with a 3.91 ERA in four 2015 starts.
The Dodgers have won nine of 13 in the season series and had earned nine straight victories at home before splitting a four-game set in mid-May. Los Angeles has limited Colorado (60-83) to a .202 average and 3.0 runs per game in its past 13 at Dodger Stadium.
Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon have each homered off Kershaw this season, but they're a combined 5 for 23 with seven strikeouts in the matchup. Carlos Gonzalez is batting .182 with two homers and 17 strikeouts in 33 lifetime at-bats against him.
Arenado leads the NL with 38 home runs, while Gonzalez is second with 37.
The last-place Rockies improved to 7-26 against left-handed starters and 4-3 on a 10-game road swing with Sunday's 3-2 win over Seattle, which started southpaw James Paxton.
Former first-round pick Jon Gray (0-0, 5.17), who faces Los Angeles (82-60) for the first time, is still seeking his first big-league win in his eighth start. He gave up two hits and struck out six over five shutout innings in Tuesday's 2-1 loss at San Diego.
"I think if I can feed off of this," the right-hander said. "It's coming pretty soon."
Gray may have to be careful with Adrian Gonzalez, who is 5 for 9 in his last two games. Gonzalez is also batting .429 with 20 RBIs in his last 14 against the Rockies.
Colorado is expected to have Jose Reyes back after a four-game absence due to a strained Achilles. The shortstop hasn't faced the Dodgers since 2013 while with Toronto.
Los Angeles' Jimmy Rollins will test his injured hand Monday, while Carl Crawford could return to the lineup after leaving Saturday's game with hamstring tightness.