LOS ANGELES – Although Clayton Kershaw has accomplished just about everything it's possible to do on a baseball mound during his 16-year career, he had never beaten the New York Yankees until Friday night.
The feat got a whole lot less daunting after the Los Angeles Dodgers staked him to a six-run lead in the first inning, and Kershaw sat on that cushion all the way to another milestone victory.
Kershaw racked up nine strikeouts over seven innings of four-hit ball, and Mookie Betts hit two more homers in the Dodgers' resounding 8-4 win to open this high-profile interleague series.
Betts hit his second straight leadoff homer and an RBI single during Los Angeles’ eight-hit first inning against Luis Severino, and Kershaw (7-4) didn't falter despite allowing early homers by Giancarlo Stanton and Josh Donaldson, who both returned from lengthy injury absences.
“Feels good to pitch good — definitely better than the last few,” Kershaw said. “And when we score six in the first inning, that’s a great way to pitch. It’s just trying to get our guys back in the dugout as quick as possible.”
Despite the homers, Kershaw showed marked improvement after three uncharacteristically wild starts last month. He finished by retiring his final seven New York batters, earning a standing ovation from Dodger Stadium after recording his final out.
He has now beaten every team in the majors except Baltimore. He has never faced the Orioles, but the Dodgers are headed to Camden Yards next month.
“That's why he's a first-ballot Hall of Famer,” Betts said of Kershaw. “He gives us a chance to win every single night. I'm happy I'm a part of it.”
Betts finished 4 for 4 with a walk and three RBIs in his second straight two-homer game for the NL-leading Dodgers.
A season-high 52,534 fans turned out for the latest meeting between major-market powerhouses and former New York rivals that have met in 11 World Series. The Yankees are making just their fifth trip to Chavez Ravine in the regular season and their first since August 2019.
“The energy was a little different tonight,” said Betts, who hit the 41st leadoff homer of his career. “I think the schedule, bringing in teams like that, letting everybody see (Aaron) Judge, Stanton, their whole lineup, is super-cool. It’s fun to play in games like this.”
Donaldson hit two homers in his first game since April 5 for the Yankees, who have lost two straight after a four-game winning streak. Stanton and Donaldson, who hit a 446-foot shot in the second and a two-run homer in the ninth, had both been sidelined since April with hamstring injuries, but their power wasn’t nearly enough.
“Felt nice to have some pretty quality ABs today,” Donaldson said. “Obviously, it’s been frustrating not being able to play, but I can’t really do too much about that anymore. Hopefully I’ll put my best foot forward moving forward.”
Max Muncy added a two-run homer in the first, while J.D. Martinez homered and singled to extend his hitting streak to 16 games for the Dodgers. Betts hit his second homer in the sixth, and his eighth-inning single provided one last chance for Freddie Freeman to extend his 20-game hit streak — but the NL's Player of the Month for May hit a 99-mph lineout to shortstop and finished 0 for 5.
Severino (0-1) needed 34 pitches to get out of the first inning while allowing eight batted balls faster than 94 mph. He recovered and got through four innings, but his fastball averaged just 95 mph, down significantly from his season average.
“Just some leaking over the heart of the plate,” manager Aaron Boone said. “They had some hard contact in that inning, but just some fastballs that leaked back over a little bit, and Muncy put a good swing on a changeup away. He settled in to give us something there, which is good, but obviously a tough one in the first.”
Los Angeles’ Jason Heyward had two hits while playing in left field for the first time in his 1,623-game major league career, which he has spent predominantly in right field. Heyward said he hadn’t played an inning in left field since spring training in 2009.
Yankees: CF Greg Allen left in the eighth with hip flexor pain, Boone said. He could be headed to the injured list. ... Carlos Rodón had a 30-pitch bullpen session. He has been out since spring training due to a sore left forearm and a back injury, but the $162 million left-hander should be ready to face live hitters soon.
Dodgers: Struggling Noah Syndergaard will stay in the Dodgers' rotation for his next start Wednesday, manager Dave Roberts said. Syndergaard has a 6.54 ERA, but says he is healthy.
Gerrit Cole (6-0, 2.93 ERA) takes the mound in his native Southern California against the Dodgers' Michael Grove (0-1, 8.44 ERA), who will make his first appearance since April due to a groin strain.