Kershaw's Gem Don't Stop Dodgers Freefall

Many in the media were adamant that the Dodgers should send Toronto anything they asked for ace Roy Halladay, including 21-year-old Clayton Kershaw, concession profits and parking fees at Dodger Stadium. But the youngster's performance last night against Atlanta demonstrates that GM Ned Colletti's refusal to include him in any transaction was not only the correct path, it was the only one.

Clayton Kershaw gave the Dodgers a needed boost by pitching seven innings and allowing two hits and no runs, giving the tattered bullpen a needed break. But his teammates left runners scattered about all through the game, finally scoring a run in the bottom of the 10th but an Atlanta home run in the top of the inning gave them a second straight extra-inning win.

He left the scoreless game after seven innings, having allowed two hits, one walk and with 10 strikeouts. Kershaw struck out 10 of his first 18 batters, retiring 20 of 22 after a leadoff double. Atlanta's only other hit against the 21-year-old right-hander was a one-out single in the fourth and after his only walk, he picked the runner off to end the seventh.

Kershaw has received only two runs of support in his past three starts, and five runs of support in his past four. He is 6-1 with a 1.06 ERA in his last 10 starts beginning with a no-decision on June 16 -- the best ERA in the majors during that stretch.

"Kershaw took care of what he could control," manager Joe Torre said. "After his last outing, he became very determined -- not that he wasn't determined the last outing, but this kid has a lot of heart. And certainly, you know his ability. We haven't put wins back-to-back, and he's pitched in games that have been must-win situations."

In this game the Dodgers were 1-for-9 with runners in scoring position. individual left-on-base figures included Brad Ausmus (5), Matt Kemp, James Loney and Mark Loretta (3 each) and Andre Ethier and Manny Ramirez (2 each). Only Tony Abreu, making his first start since 2007, did not leave a runner stranded.

The euphoria of the remarkable first half of the season is wearing thin and those who are not beginning to panic just don't understand the situation.

The Dodgers have lost three of their past four, five of their past eight and 10 of their past 16. The club's current 5 1/2-game lead (five in the all-important loss column) over the Giants is its smallest division lead since the start of play on May 15, when it led San Francisco by five games.

The scoring was limited to the 10th inning. Adam LaRoche (Andy's brother) walked and Kelly Johnson's two-out home run into the seats just inside the foul pole off Guillermo Mota broke the scoreless tie. It was the Braves third, and final, hit of the game.

In the bottom of the inning, Juan Pierre singled and scored on a two-out double by "Mr. Clutch," Andre Ethier. Ramirez was intentionally walked and Kemp ended the game when the Braves shortstop made a sparkling stop and throw to nip him at first base.

The Dodgers had a chance in the fifth when Orlando Hudson and Abreu singled. A collision between the Braves second baseman and right fielder on a foul pop near the stands prolonged gave Brad Ausmus a second chance but he struck out and Hudson was tagged out in a rundown when Ausmus struck out and Kershaw bounced out to second to end the inning.

Their best scoring chance came in the seventh when Kemp led off with a single, stole second and continued to third on a throwing error by former Dodgers catcher David Ross. One-out walks to Hudson and Abreu loaded the bases, but Ausmus and pinch-hitter Mark Loretta struck out.

Ronald Belisario, just re-activated, George Sherrill and Jonathan Broxton held the Braves in check until Mota took over in the 10th.

Because of the Dodgers' 12-inning loss on Friday night and the Yankees' 15-inning win over Boston, Los Angeles had entered Saturday not having the best record in the majors for the first time since May 2, when the team was 16-8.

b>Sorry, Scott
Rookie Scott Elbert was announced as the Dodgers starter today, but then the left-hander was used in relief in the second game of the series, took the loss, and was handed a ticket to Albuquerque.

Eric Stults was recalled and will make the start in the finale of a four-game series at Dodger Stadium. A corresponding roster move will be announced today.

Stults is 4-2 with a 4.80 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers this season. His most recent outing with the club came May 30 in Chicago, when he lasted just three innings and gave up four runs on six hits in a loss to the Cubs. After that start, Stults was placed on the disabled list with a left thumb injury, and he remained on the DL until July 1, when he was activated and sent to the Minors.

He was 4-2, 4.25 with the Isotopes, having allowed 43 hits in 35 innings and with a strikeout-walk record of 30-15 over seven games, six of them starts.

The Braves will counter with RHP Javier Vazquez (9-7, 2.99 ERA) who has made nine quality starts over his past 12 outings and the Braves have won each of his past six starts. His 164 strikeouts rank second in the National League.

  Score by Innings
Atlanta	        000 000 000-2
Los Angeles	000 000 000-1

  Los Angeles	ab r   h  bi  ave
Furcal ss	3  0  0  0  .265
Ethier rf	5  0  1  1  .272
Ramirez lf	4  0  0  0  .302
Kemp cf        	5  0  2  0  .318
Loney 1b	4  0  0  0  .282
Hudson 2b	3  0  1  0  .292
Abreu 3b	3  0  0  0  .314
Ausmus c	3  0  0  0  .314
 Pierre ph	1  1  1  0  .315
Kershaw p	2  0  0  0  .314
 Loretta ph	1  0  0  0  .237
 Belisario p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Sherrill p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Broxton p	0  0  0  0  .000
 Mota p        	0  0  0  0  .500
 Martin ph	1  0  0  0  .270
  Totals  	35  1  6  1
  Atlanta	32  2  3  2  

  2B- Ethier (26). RBI- Ethier (73).
LOB- Los Angeles 9, Atlanta 5. SB- Kemp
(23). CS- Hudson (1). Pickoffs- Kershaw.

  Los Angeles 	 in  h r-er bb so  era
Kershaw 	7.0  2  0-0  1 10  2.73
Belisario 	0.2  0  0-0  1  0  2.39
Sherrill	0.1  0  0-0  1  0  2.17
Broxton 	1.0  0  0-0  0  1  2.84
Mota (3-3)      1.0  1  2-2  2  2  3.29
  T- 3:31. Att- 53,338.