The Los Angeles Dodgers needed some relief against the St. Louis Cardinals on July 20. After the Dodgers lost two games to the Cardinals and first place in the process, it was the right time for Clayton Kershaw to come on board and stop the bleeding. However, Los Angeles only salvaged a 4-3 victory after Kershaw left the mound, as St. Louis gave him his roughest outing in weeks.
Even a rough outing by Kershaw's standards is still better than the best from most pitchers. Yet giving up three runs in seven innings and leaving the Dodgers tied at 3-3 was still an uncommon performance. Much of the damage was done in the sixth, as Kershaw couldn't protect a 3-1 lead thanks to Peter Bourjos' two-run homer.
The Cardinals got to Kershaw before that, as he hit Matt Holliday with a pitch in the fourth after Carlos Martinez plucked Hanley Ramirez in the top of the inning. Ramirez later got hit again on the right hand in the ninth, which resulted in him being taken out for x-rays -- right before Adrian Gonzalez came up and got the game-winning hit.
Gonzalez's winner salvaged a rough night and a rough weekend in St. Louis for Los Angeles. But the Dodgers and Kershaw have had rougher visits to Busch Stadium, as this was Kershaw's first start there since he was torched in Game 6 of last year's NLCS.
There's a real chance Kershaw will have to pitch another big playoff game at St. Louis this October, since the Cardinals and Dodgers are now both tied for first in their divisions. In fact, this game ensured that all three NL divisions have a first place tie as of July 21, although Los Angeles is technically one percentage point behind the San Francisco Giants.
The Cardinals are back in a statistical tie in every way with the Milwaukee Brewers, while the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds are breathing down both their necks. In a National League where the top eight teams are only separated by three games, St. Louis's dreams for a second straight pennant -- and much more -- have even more obstacles than Los Angeles.
With Kershaw heading up their rotation, the Dodgers are still considered a favorite in the NL West at the very least. However, the Cardinals still remain one of the few opponents who aren't intimidated by him.