MIAMI -- Hanley Ramirez's three-hit return to Florida was the latest reason why Clayton Kershaw's achievements this year seem to be getting overshadowed.
Kershaw allowed three hits and took the Dodgers into the seventh inning in Friday's 5-2 win over the Marlins, two of the hits not leaving the infield, the other being a long home run by former Dodgers farmhand Justin Ruggiano in the first inning.
That run had the Dodgers playing catch up until a four-run sixth inning that included Ramirez's tie-breaking single and a key two-run home run by Juan Rivera.
"One dumb pitch selection," said Kershaw of the home run.
Catcher A.J. Ellis agreed, sort of.
"I made a poor choice calling the pitch, and he made a poor choice in not shaking me off," said Ellis, who jokingly insults Kershaw whenever he's not catching him. "I was testing him to see if he was smart enough to not throw that pitch. And he failed."
Otherwise, Kershaw did a lot more succeeding, improving his record to 10-6 with a 2.88 ERA. He reeled off 14 consecutive outs after the home run, and now has three consecutive wins and quality starts in five of his last six.
He's not gunning for the pitching Triple Crown this year, and probably won't repeat as National League Cy Young Award winner, but he's still in the NL top 10 for ERA, innings pitched, strikeouts, shutouts, complete games and lowest opponents' batting average.
"He's been good a lot," said manager Don Mattingly. "We don't realize how good, sometimes."
Everybody seemed to be impressed with Kershaw except Kershaw.
"It was kind of a battle," he said, having seen a game nobody else saw. "I didn't have good fastball command. I broke cardinal rules for pitchers, walking the leadoff guy, giving up a first-inning run, letting them score in a shutdown inning. But the team picked me up tonight."
While Kershaw did allow a run in the bottom of the sixth after the Dodgers had taken a 4-1 lead, the Marlins loaded the bases on three ground balls (two didn't leave the infield) and scored on Carlos Lee's sacrifice fly, so he wasn't exactly hammered.
"I was just limiting the damage that inning," Kershaw said. "Keeping it to one run was big for us."
Ellis, having completed the insults of Kershaw for one bad pitch, got serious about all the other pitches that were thrown.
"Awesome," said Ellis. "About as good as I've seen all year. He went 6 1/3 and had all four pitches working. He's hard on himself. What makes Clayton great is that he wants to be perfect every time. He's also smart enough to know he won't be perfect, and that keeps him going. I can tell him and I can tell you he was really good tonight."
Mattingly decided the game would be determined in the seventh inning, when he used three relievers to follow Kershaw. With two on and one out, he brought on Jamey Wright to strike out John Buck. He asked Randy Choate to get the left-handed Bryan Petersen, but he walked.
Ronald Belisario got the final out, escaping the inherited bases-loaded mess by getting Donovan Solano on a groundout. Belisario then pitched a perfect eighth inning and Kenley Jansen earned his 23rd save. Noticeably absent from the late-inning slotting was newcomer Brandon League, who has allowed two runs in his four Dodgers appearances.
Matt Kemp said he wasn't surprised by Ruggiano's 430-foot blast, his 10th home run in 56 games.
"Dude can play," said Kemp, a Minor League teammate of Ruggiano, who was dealt to Tampa Bay in 2006 with Dioner Navarro and Jae Seo for Toby Hall and Mark Hendrickson.
The Dodgers took the lead against Mark Buehrle in the sixth. Shane Victorino led off with a double, was bunted to third by Mark Ellis and doubled home by Kemp. Ramirez followed with a bouncer into right field, Kemp scoring with a slide that eluded the tag of catcher Buck.
Ramirez took second on the throw, and Rivera followed by providing needed insurance runs, lining a two-run home run into the left-field seats, his sixth homer of the year and third lifetime off Buehrle.
But Kershaw got into trouble quickly in the bottom of the sixth. Buck's leadoff single exploded past Ramirez. Pinch-hitter Gorkys Hernandez reached on an infield single when third baseman Jerry Hairston's throw to second was late. Solano bounced to Ramirez, who threw to second, but Ellis came off the bag early and umpire Angel Hernandez ruled Hernandez safe to load the bases.
Ruggiano bounced to Hairston for a force at home and the first out of the inning. On Lee's sacrifice fly, Hernandez scored. Giancarlo Stanton just missed a three-run homer by sending Victorino to the warning track with a flyout to end the inning.
"We got a couple chances. When you're going to face a kid of that caliber, you got to bring your best stuff," said Miami manager Ozzie Guillen. "It's not going to be easy to beat him. We got a few chances early and we couldn't get it done."
The Dodgers got the run back in the seventh. They loaded the bases on singles by A.J. Ellis and Kershaw (hit-and-run) and an intentional walk to Kemp. On Ramirez's infield nubber, pitcher Ryan Webb bumped catcher Buck before he could throw to first as Ellis scored.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.