SportsPulse: Bob Nightengale breaks down what makes Cleveland’s winning streak so special, and how the Dodgers’ struggles could prove costly.
USA TODAY Sports
SAN FRANCISCO — Latin music played over the loudspeakers in the Los Angeles Dodgers clubhouse before Tuesday night’s game, courtesy of closer Kenley Jansen. In the dugout, manager Dave Roberts displayed an upbeat attitude as he entertained the news media with a story about franchise icon Tom Lasorda.
Perhaps the Dodgers were determined not to show the weight of the puzzling 11-game losing streak that had shaken their fans’ faith and cut their 21-game lead in the National League West in less than half.
More likely, they drew comfort from knowing Clayton Kershaw was taking the mound against the San Francisco Giants.
Kershaw, who notched the only victory in L.A.’s 1-16 stretch coming in, held the Giants in check over six innings and benefited from a couple of excellent defensive plays as the Dodgers held on for a 5-3 victory to end the longest slide in their Los Angeles history.
If not the vintage Kershaw who had fashioned a 20-9 record with a 1.62 ERA over his career against San Francisco, Tuesday’s version was good enough to help the Dodgers trim their magic number to eight and boost their division lead back to 10. They also officially secured a postseason spot while extending to 4 ½ games their margin over the Washington Nationals for the best record in the NL and home-field advantage in the playoffs.
“Nothing about these past two weeks has been easy, so we shouldn’t have expected this one to be easy,’’ said Kershaw, who allowed eight hits and two runs, one earned. “I wasn’t very good at times tonight and my defense picked me up, and our offense wasn’t very good tonight and they picked it up too. … We needed everybody to get a win tonight and it took just about everybody.’’
Kershaw contributed to a four-run rally in the fourth that put Los Angeles ahead to stay and knocked out San Francisco starter Johnny Cueto.
After Chase Utley led off the inning with a homer that tied the game 1-1, Kershaw sliced a drive that left fielder Austin Slater misplayed into a double. He later scored on a Corey Seager sacrifice fly before Yasiel Puig’s…