LOS ANGELES (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals' years of modest success against Clayton Kershaw seemed like ancient history while the Dodgers' left-hander mowed them down on Sunday.
And after Los Angeles' pitching staff allowed just four runs in four games against the defending NL champions, the Cardinals were simply grateful to get out of Chavez Ravine.
Kershaw struck out 13 during seven innings of five-hit ball, and Andre Ethier hit a three-run homer in the Dodgers' 6-0 victory.
The last time the Cardinals faced Kershaw, they battered Los Angeles' ace on the way to a win in the NL Championship Series. Although Kershaw had a sub-.500 career record against St. Louis before this victory, the two-time Cy Young winner followed outstanding performances by Josh Beckett and Zack Greinke earlier in the series with his own afternoon of dominance.
"I think we have to be pretty honest about how that pitching staff is throwing right now," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "They're throwing the ball well, but that doesn't necessarily mean that we can't walk out of here with more wins than losses. We just didn't stack together the kind of hits that we needed."
Kershaw (9-2) extended his career-best scoreless streak to 28 innings in his first home start since throwing his first no-hitter June 18 against Colorado. He went 6-0 with an 0.82 ERA in June, yielding four runs in 44 innings and striking out 61.
The Dodgers took three of four from St. Louis in a rematch of last season's NLCS. Ethier capped Los Angeles' four-run fifth inning with a shot to right off Shelby Miller (7-7) for his first homer since May 27.
Matt Carpenter had three hits for the Cardinals, who were shut out twice in the four-game series.
"We had a couple of guys on with leadoff hits, and the next thing you know, they're still standing on the bag they started on," Matheny said. "A couple of times we had guys in scoring position, but (Kershaw) just wasn't giving us much. He's locked in."
Indeed, St. Louis had little chance on another vintage day for Kershaw, who hasn't allowed a run since June 13. His 28-inning scoreless streak is the fifth-longest in franchise history, trailing only a who's-who of Dodgers luminaries: Orel Hershiser, Don Drysdale, Don Sutton and Sandy Koufax. Kershaw has the longest streak since Hershiser's record 59-inning run in 1988.
"It's tough," Miller said of his pitching matchup. "Knowing what he's capable of and doing what he's doing, you know you've got to do the same thing. It's just frustrating when you give up runs and give up those big innings. You give them a lot of momentum."
Miller gave up seven hits and six runs in five innings, but at least his sore back wasn't a problem.
With 12 wins in 16 games, Los Angeles (47-37) has pulled virtually even with the slumping Giants (46-36) atop the NL West. The Dodgers were 9 1/2 games behind San Francisco on June 8, but erased the entire deficit in three weeks.
"When we were struggling early, I think everyone knew in the back of their minds that we could turn it around," Kershaw said. "Coming back and tying up the Giants in a month is not something we expected, just like we didn't expect to go 42-8 last year, but we have that ability."
Kershaw's bid for back-to-back home no-hitters lasted exactly two pitches before Carpenter lined a single to left. Although he walked two and retired the side in order just once, Kershaw never allowed a runner to reach third base while getting at least one strikeout in each inning.
Kershaw still finished strong by striking pinch-hitter Jon Jay and Carpenter to end the seventh, earning a loud standing ovation from the Dodger Stadium crowd.
"He's been the best pitcher in the world (lately)," said Matt Kemp, who drove in the Dodgers' first run. "You get a day off from your legs sometimes when he's pitching, because you don't have to run too much (in the field)."
OTES: Dodgers starters have walked two or fewer batters in 33 straight games, the longest NL streak in a century. ... Juan Uribe committed an error in the ninth, ending the Dodgers' streak at nine errorless games, their longest in a decade. ... The Cardinals recalled RHP Jorge Rondon from Triple-A Memphis on Saturday, and he made his major league debut Sunday, pitching a hitless seventh inning.