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Clayton Kershaw retires 18 straight batters in Dodgers' win

LOS ANGELES -- Clayton Kershaw made a nifty return to form.

Kershaw retired 18 consecutive batters and struck out 12 in
eight dominant innings as the Los Angeles Dodgers, boosted by Carl
Crawford's two home runs, beat the Milwaukee Brewers 2-0 Sunday.

The 2011 NL Cy Young winner began the season with a shutout over
San Francisco, and soon extended his scoreless streak to 16
innings.

Kershaw (3-2) failed to get through the sixth inning in each of
his last two starts.

"It was good to see Kershaw back to his old self," Crawford
said. "He struggled his last two outings, so to get him back on
track is a plus for us."

Kershaw left the clubhouse before reporters were allowed in
after the game to tend to a personal matter.

"He's a great pitcher," said Ramon Hernandez, joined the
Dodgers this season and hadn't caught the All-Star in a game.
"Kershaw locates every pitch. He has an idea what he wants to do.
He's very smart. He always has a plan what he wants to do with
every hitter he's facing."

Kershaw scattered four hits and didn't walk a batter while
lowering his ERA to 1.73. The left-hander, who led the NL in ERA in
each of the previous two seasons, hasn't allowed more than three
earned runs in any of his last 18 starts -- the longest active
streak in the majors. The last time he did was July 24, 2012, when
he gave up eight at St. Louis.

"We ran into some good pitching," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke
said, shaking his head. "This guy today, I wouldn't want any part
of him. When he's on, you're going to struggle to score. When he's
commanding the fastball inside, you're in big trouble because
there's not much you can do with the pitch. And he knows when to
throw the offspeed stuff away, so you can't cover all of the
plate."

Kershaw stranded runners in scoring position in each of the
first two innings, retiring Jonathan Lucroy on a double-play
grounder in the first and striking out Martin Maldonado to end the
second.

Kershaw gave up a leadoff double in the eighth to Carlos Gomez.
The speedy runner tried to advance on Maldonado's broken-bat
comebacker to Kershaw and was tagged out by third baseman Juan Uribe in a rundown.

"That was an unbelievable play he made," Uribe said. "This
guy, he can pitch, he can hit and he can make a good play, too.
He's a player. He's unbelievable. You want to make plays for
pitchers like that. Guys like that hustle the game along and they
want to win the game. I'm happy for him that he won today."

Brandon League pitched a perfect ninth inning for his eighth
save in nine chances.

Crawford homered on the first pitch of the game from Kyle Lohse
(1-2). It was the fourth time Lohse had given up a home run to his
first batter in 336 career starts, and the first one that came on
his very first pitch.

"The past week, guys have been getting ahead of me with the
first pitch right down the middle. So I just picked today to be
aggressive with the first pitch," Crawford said. "This is a tough
ballpark to hit home runs in, but they say the ball flies better
here in the daytime. So I caught a break today."

Crawford's second homer came on an 0-2 count in the fifth inning
and landed in the right field pavilion. It was his sixth multihomer
game in the majors and first since July 8, 2010, for Tampa Bay.

"They've pretty much given me the freedom to be myself and not
try to be the traditional leadoff hitter who just takes a bunch of
pitches and try to slap the ball," Crawford said. "I like to try
to put a good swing on the ball and not just hit the ball to the
shortstop and run. I mean, there's times for that, but for the most
part, I'm trying to hit the ball in the gap somewhere."

Game notes
Kershaw threw 117 pitches. The other leadoff homers Lohse has given up were by Jose Valentin (2001), Chuck Knoblauch (2002) and Jayson Werth (2011). ... Ramon Hernandez made his fourth start behind the plate for the Dodgers. His other three came in LHP Hyun-Jin Ryu's last three starts. ... Lohse reached the 2,000-inning mark for his 13-year career when he retired Kershaw on a grounder to shortstop to end the second. ... Lohse, coming off a 7-1 win last Monday at San Diego, hasn't won consecutive road starts since last April against Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. ... Dodgers LHP Ted Lilly makes his second start on Monday night in the opener of a three-game series with Colorado. He is 4-0 with a 2.15 ERA in four career starts against the Rockies at Dodger Stadium, including a two-hit shutout with 11 strikeouts on Aug. 19, 2010. ... Brewers RHP Yovani Gallardo will pitch the opener of a three-game set against Pittsburgh on Monday at Miller Park. He is 6-0 with a 2.18 ERA in his last seven starts overall against the Pirates.