Kershaw Says, "Happy Birthday, Joe"

Clayton Kershaw ... on a roll

Twenty-one-year old Clayton Kershaw gave manager Joe Torre just what he wanted on his 69th birthday, a 5-2 win over the Houston Astros, breaking a short 2-0 losing streak since the All-Star break and tacking an extra game lead over both San Francisco and Colorado who lost.

Baseball's talking heads spend a good deal of time each day speculating if and to whom Toronto might trade Roy Halladay, the acknowledged "best pitcher in baseball." A strong case could be made that lefty Clayton Kershaw has out-pitched both Holiday and any other starter you could name in the Major Leagues over his past seven starts.

And since Toronto has admittedly asked for not only a package of high draft choices for their ace, they are also demanding a player or two off the major league team interested in adding him to their roster.

That would be giving up 11 seasons, the difference in the age of Kershaw and Halladay, plus some $20 million in salary to rent him for the next year and a half. Not a winning wager in the eyes of many Dodgers players and nearly the entire fan base of the Dodgers Nation.

Sample comments solicited by Ken Gurnick of MLB.com range from "I don't do that" by Rafael Furcal, "You can't do that, he's getting better every start. No, sir, you can't do that" by Matt Kemp to "Not a chance. Never. Why would you? I mean, if I'm a GM, to trade a young guy who's inexpensive, that makes no sense. If I'm the other team, sure I'd want him, but I don't think he's on the block," from Russell Martin.

A majority of the opinions received by LADugout.com are not reprintable on a family website but go from a solid "NO" to "Hell no."

To be clear, there is no indication that the Dodgers are interested in breaking up their solid block of young talent, even if it would mean adding such an outstanding pitcher.

Kershaw won his fifth straight decision, 5-2 over the Astros, allowing only two hits, striking out five and lowering his ERA to a glittering 2.95.

The left-hander is 5-0 in his last seven starts, has not allowed a run in five of them, and has given up three earned runs in 42 2/3 innings for a microscopic 0.63 earned run average.

Support from the bullpen was varied. James McDonald allowed two runs without getting anyone out, Brent Leach and Ramon Troncoso held the line and passed the game to Jonathan Broxton, who loaded the bases before striking out Ivan Rodriguez for his 21st save in 23 chances to preserve the victory.

Broxton has been hampered by a sore big right toe and has had two cortisone shots for it, reported that it felt much better but was pitching for the first time in eight days. He gave up a leadoff walk and an infield hit, fanned two Astros then walked the bases loaded before his third strikeout of the inning.

"Clayton's settled into a good place right now," said Dodgers manager Joe Torre, who celebrated his 69th birthday. "We felt that with a five-run lead, our bullpen could do it. And it did. It was a little hairy for a while, but we did it. That's what the eighth and ninth innings are supposed to be. There are very few of those games a friend of mind likes to call `cigar games,' where you can just do the old Red Auerbach thing, light a cigar and wait for the clock to run out. That doesn't happen in this sport."

The Dodgers, who lead the majors with a 57-34 record and remain the only team that hasn't lost three a row, scored five times on Houston starter Mike Hampton, hampered by his own error. The last time that happened was Aug. 29, when they dropped their eighth straight before winning the next eight.

Hampton surrendered three runs in the sixth to boost the Dodgers lead to 5-0 and while attempting to slam the ball into his glove, missed the glove and when the ball rolled over to the first base dugout, Kemp galloped in with the fifth run of the game.

Rafael Furcal singled to open the game and Orlando Hudson, suddenly the hottest hitter on the club (after going 3-for-4 he is 9-for-14 in his past four games), tripled with one out in the first.

With two out Casey Blake, who was 16-for-44 lifetime against Hampton, was intentionally walked and Matt Kemp spoiled that strategy with a single to give the Dodgers a 2-0 led.

In the sixth, Hudson singled to center with one out and Manny Ramirez launched his only hit of the day, a double to left field. Blake was walked intentionally again to load the bases. Kemp forced Ramirez at third as Hudson scored.

Mark Loretta, at first in place of James Loney, singled in a second run and Hampton gave the Dodgers third third run with his embarrassing error.

The Dodgers give the ball to RHP Hiroki Kuroda (3-5, 4.67 ERA) who allowed four earned runs on eight hits in 4.1 innings in his last start. In two career starts against the Astros, he has an ERA of 0.66 and 1-0 record.

RHP Russ Ortiz (3-4, 4.44 ERA) draws the Astros start. He is 2-3 with a 5.26 ERA in 10 starts this year, picking up his first win of the season against the Dodgers on April 21 by allowing three hits and three runs in five innings.

 Score by innings
Houston	000 000 020-2
Los Angeles	200 003 00x-5

 Los Angeles	ab r  h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	4  1  1  0  .254
Hudson 2b	4  2  3  1  .295
Ramirez lf	4  0  1  0  .338
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
Blake 3b	2  1  0  0  .283
Kemp rf-cf	4  1  1  2  .315
Loretta 1b	3  0  1  1  .243
 Loney 1b	0  0  0  0  .279
Martin c	3  0  1  0  .257
Kershaw p	2  0  0  0  .138
 DeWitt ph	1  0  0  0  .154
 McDonald p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Leach p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Troncoso p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Ethier rf	0  0  0  0  .248
Pierre cf-lf	3  0  0  0  .318
----------------------------------
 Totals	30 5 8 4
 Houston	32 2 6 1

 Error- Pierre (1). Two-base hits- Ramirez (12).
3B- Hudson (4). RBI- Hudson (49), Kemp 2 (52),
Loretta (17). LOB- Los Angeles 3, Houston 6. 
CS- Blake (2). DP- Blake, Hudson and Loretta.

 Los Angeles	in  h r-er bb so  era
Kershaw (8-5)	7.0  2  0-0  1  5  2.95
McDonald	0.0  2  2-2  0  0  5.34
Leach	        0.1  1  0-0  0  1  4.05
Troncoso	0.2  0  0-0  0  0  1.73
Broxton (sv 21)	1.0  1  0-0  2  3  3.02
 WP- McDonald, Leach. T- 2:51. Att- 48,298.
Schmidt to Start Monday
Jason Schmidt, who has been out more than two years with shoulder problems, will start for the Dodgers against the Reds on Monday night, manager Joe Torre announced. It is his first Major League appearance since June 16, 2007.

The Dodgers are searching for a fifth starter and need to see if Schmidt can handle the job after nearly two years of rehab.

If effective, Schmidt could get two or three starts before the July 31 Trade Deadline, and the Dodgers are clearly searching for help.

In rehab stints this year, Schmidt went 1-1 with a 2.25 ERA in two starts for Class A Inland Empire and 2-0 with a 4.18 ERA in six appearances (five starts) for Albuquerque. His longest start was 7.2 innings on June 26 and his most recent start was July 12.

However, the club is nearly as interested in adding a reliever as much as a starter, and are hopeful they will be able to use Hong-Chih Kuo after a scoreless inning for Inland Empire.

Dodger Blue Notes --Torre's teams are on a five-game winning streak on his birthday and his record as a manager on his birthday is 15-9, including victories in each of the last five years. ...The Dodgers haven't lost three games in a row since an eight-game losing streak from August 22-29, 2008. ...Hudson has 48 RBI, and with two more he would make the Dodgers the first team in the Majors with five players with 50 or more RBI. ...The Dodgers had lost five in a row to the Astros at Dodger Stadium and eight of their last 10, beginning May 11, 2006. ...The Chattanooga Lookouts front-office staff was in attendance at the game led by team owner Frank Burke.   

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