At first, Clayton Kershaw's pitching had teammates sprinting and diving for balls. Then he found a groove and flirted with a no-hitter.
The bid ended with Cody Ross' double leading off the eighth inning, ending Kershaw's day, and the Los Angeles Dodgers settled for a four-hitter to beat the Florida Marlins 12-5 Sunday.
The double came on the 112th pitch by Kershaw, a career high. Guillermo Mota gave up a grand slam to Ross with two out in the ninth.
Kershaw (2-3) benefited from three fine defensive plays in the first two innings, then settled down. Given a 6-0 lead by the third, the 21-year-old left-hander struck out nine and pitched around four walks.
Kershaw struck out Jeremy Hermida looking with his 100th pitch to start the seventh and went on to strike out the side for the only time. But on a humid, 82-degree afternoon, Kershaw looked exhausted walking to the dugout.
He had never pitched more than seven innings in his previous 28 major league starts, and when Ross doubled on a 1-2 count to start the eighth, manager Joe Torre removed his weary pitcher. Ross then scored Florida's first run on Emilio Bonifacio's sacrifice fly.
Kershaw came into the game with an ERA of 5.21, and on the road he was 0-3 in four starts. But he stymied the Marlins with a repertoire that included fastballs that reached 94 mph and curves at 72, and he was helped by good glove work, too.
Torre sat four regulars for the day game following a night game, but the Dodgers' defense was first-team caliber. Three of Florida's first five batters had a shot at a hit but were robbed on catches by second baseman Orlando Hudson, left fielder Juan Pierre and right fielder Xavier Paul.
Juan Castro hit his first home run and scored three times for the Dodgers, who completed a 4-2 trip. They're 5-5 without suspended slugger Manny Ramirez but still have the best record in the majors.
Pierre, Ramirez's replacement, had two doubles, a single and three RBIs to hike his average to .419. He finished 8 for 14 in the series with six runs and five RBIs.
Mark Loretta had three hits and three RBIs, and Hudson had a two-run single.
John Koronka (0-2) was no match for Kershaw, committing two early throwing errors to give up two unearned runs. The crowd of 16,332 booed Koronka, and when he finally made an accurate throw on a sacrifice in the third inning, fans responded with a mock cheer.
Koronka, making his second start after being out of the majors the past two years, lasted only 2 2-3 innings and allowed six runs, four earned.
Notes: Before the game, Florida selected the contract of OF Alejandro De Aza from Triple-A New Orleans and optioned RHP Carlos Martinez to New Orleans. The Marlins made the move because utilityman Alfredo Amezaga is expected to be sidelined a couple of days with a sore left knee. ... Florida RHP Rick VandenHurk (elbow) was transferred to the 60-day disabled list. ... Dodgers LHP Eric Stults, who jammed his pitching thumb on a defensive play Friday, delayed his scheduled bullpen session for at least one day and may miss his next start. ... Dodgers LHP Eric Milton, who made his first start in two years Saturday, will likely skip a turn before starting again. ... Infielder Bonifacio made his first start in left field for Florida. He played the outfield in winter ball.