LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers' bats have been relatively quiet all season, and even more so on the current homestand.
The way Clayton Kershaw shut down the Tigers' hitters Monday night, the Los Angeles offense could've taken all the time it needed.
Kershaw tossed his second two-hit shutout of the season, and he provided some offense, too, with a two-run eighth inning single that sealed an easy 4-0 Los Angeles victory at Dodger Stadium.
Using three pitches to perfection, Kershaw, a lefty, baffled an all right-handed Tigers lineup that had entered the game 14-6 against left-handed starters this season. By the end of the night, his 11 strikeouts had lifted him into the Major League lead with 117.
"It's fun," the 23-year-old said after the game with a grin on his face. "Baseball's fun."
And Kershaw got to have all the fun Monday, notching his 10th hit of the season, the most for any pitcher. After Tigers manager Jim Leyland had used an intentional walk in the eighth inning, ensuring Kershaw would bat, he poked a two-out, two-strike single through the right side of the infield to put the game away.
Even Leyland, whose team was held to the fewest hits it has had all season, couldn't spend time criticizing his team's efforts. He was too busy praising Kershaw.
"Doesn't matter what part of the order was up tonight," he said. "We got two hits. I mean, it's that simple. There's really nothing to say. You can't be mad about a game like this."
Leyland called Kershaw, "as good as I've seen all year, hands down." He made sure to note the strong performance of his own guy, Brad Penny, but said no one would've had a chance against Kershaw on Monday.
"We just ran into a buzzsaw, ran into an opposing pitcher that's really good and had a great night," Leyland said. "When the good ones are really on like he was tonight, he was lights-out. We had no shot. I mean, 94, 95, 96 [mph], breaking ball, changeup. That's one of those where you tip your cap and move on."
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said performances like Monday's are a result of Kershaw's "perfectionist" mind-set and the time he has spent in the gym after losses.
"We've seen his maturity," Mattingly said. "He's getting better and better. That's why people look at him and say he has the chance to be something special."
Mattingly was most impressed with the way Kershaw used his slider and his changeup, two pitches he has come a long way with since entering the Major Leagues. With Kershaw, Mattingly said, it's more than just his stuff that makes him successful.
"He now pitches to both sides," Mattingly said of the results of those pitches. "You see a lot of guys with that stuff and potential, and two years later, they look exactly the same and just fizzle. You see his maturity and growth."
Asked if he's seen Kershaw pitch better, catcher Dioner Navarro laughed.
"I don't think you can top that," he said. "A no-hitter would. But he was flat-out outstanding today. All of his pitches were working, and strike one was the key."
Pick any of Kershaw's 11 strikeouts and you'd get a good grasp of the way he was commanding all his pitches. But perhaps none was a better microcosm of his night than when he faced Jhonny Peralta in the second inning. Strike one: fastball painted on the outside corner. Strike two: breaking ball, low, that Peralta chased. Strike three: changeup, inside, that fooled Peralta into a weak swing.
Kershaw got all the run support he would need in the bottom of the first inning when third baseman Juan Uribe crushed Penny's full-count offering into the left-field bleachers for his first home run since April 29. Uribe, who had two hits, had struggled in June, his average dropping 21 points to .207.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Dodgers' offense gave Kershaw a cushion. James Loney, who had three hits, doubled, and Navarro knocked him in with a double two batters later, giving the Dodgers their first multi-run lead of the homestand.
The closest Detroit came to scoring was in the third inning, when Ryan Raburn reached third base with two outs. Raburn took an ambitious secondary lead, and Navarro made him pay with a snap throw that beat him by a foot.
"I knew he was getting a big jump," Navarro said. "He was going on contact, and every time I get a shot, I'm gonna throw it. That's part of my game and that's part of what I like to do."
From there, only two more runners reached base and Kershaw retired the final 13 hitters he faced. Although his eighth-inning single turned the ninth into a formality, he came out firing, striking out the side with a fastball still hitting the mid-90s.
It marked the second consecutive game the Dodgers pitching staff has held its opponent without a run, the first time since July 21-22, 2010. Sunday it was a gem from Hiroki Kuroda, and on Monday it was one of the best outings of the season from the Dodgers' ace. "He had a little extra tonight," Mattingly said. "From what we've seen of him, that game is always there. But he's shown growth this season. He's able to pitch to both sides of the plate with all his pitches, and he keeps getting better."
AJ Cassavell is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.