With the Reds trying to complete a three-game sweep Wednesday in Dodger Stadium, the Los Dodgers’ three-time Cy Young Award winner would have none of it.
The left-hander with the herky-jerky delivery pitched seven shutout innings, giving up only four hits, as the Dodgers prevailed, 8-0.
Three of the four Cincinnati hits against Kershaw came off the bat of Nick Senzel, batting leadoff on this day. The Reds produced only seven hits and Senzel collected four of them.
Senzel had four of the team’s five hits through eight innings before the Reds grabbed a pair of two-out infield hits in the ninth.
Unfortunately for Reds starter Sonny Gray, he picked a bad day to face the Dodgers with Kershaw on the mound.
Gray nearly matched Kershaw pitch-for-pitch — 5 2/3 innings, two runs, four hits, three walks and 11 strikeouts.
At one point, Gray struck out six of the seven batters he faced. But the one he didn’t strike out, former Reds farmhand Justin Turner, ripped a two-out home run in the third inning.
The only other run off Gray came in the first after Mookie Betts led the inning with a double. He scored while the Reds were turning a double play.
The Dodgers erupted in the eighth inning against relief pitcher Sal Romano with six runs, turning a 2-0 retrievable game into an irretrievable 8-0 lead.
The positives on a mostly negative day came from Gray and Senzel.
“Nick had a great day at the plate,” said manager David Bell. “That was great to see. We just couldn’t get anything else going against Kershaw. We’ve all seen that before.
“Sonny pitched a good game and got better as he went and that was real encouraging, a good day for Sonny. He looked similar to what we’ve seen the last couple of years.”
Gray was snapping off knee-bending curveballs and finishing hitters with well-placed fastballs. Six of his eleven strikeouts were called.
This effort came after a sub-Sonny performance in his previous start in St. Louis.
“I just competed, man,” said Gray. “I just tried to compete and that was truly all that was on my mind.”
Gray said he went to bed Tuesday night knowing a good game was coming out of his arm Wednesday.
“I knew last night that I was going to throw the ball well,” he said. “I had a good week of work, a good week of preparation.”
After his struggles in St. Louis, Gray thought it was time for re-evaluation.
“I had a decision to make after that game in St. Louis,” he said. “It was either feel sorry for myself and sit on it and dig myself into a hole or not. I went to bed that night, woke up the next morning and made a decision to get to work and let the cards play out as they may.”
Senzel led off the game with a single and stole second, but was thrown out trying to steal third.
Gray drew a walk off Kershaw with two outs in the third and Senzel singled him to second, but Jesse Winker grounded out.
Senzel’s third hit off Kershaw was an infield topper up the third base line to open the sixth, but Winker struck out, Nick Castellanos struck out and Joey Votto grounded out.
Kershaw was gone when Senzel punched his fourth hit, a liner to right field off relief pitcher Blake Treinen after pinch-hitter Tyler Naquin was hit by a pitch.
But Winker and Castellanos both struck out to leave it at 2-0. Winker went hitless, ending his batting streak at 12 games.
The Dodgers made it more difficult for the Reds to rescue this one by scoring six runs against Romano. Romano had two outs and on one before all four tires blew and the transmission fell out.
When Romano couldn’t get the last out, infielder Alex Blandino took the mound and retired Justin Turner on an inning-ending pop fly.
Gray’s only mishap was the home run pitch to Turner.
“I don’t think I had a bad plan, just a bad execution of the pitch,” he said. “I wanted to go in off (the plate), between his feet and the plate. But I think I just threw it on the plate. I had good conviction, a good process — you would call it a bad pitch but I call it just bad execution.”
Gray sees rainbows from the team taking two of three from the defending World Series champions after losing three straight in St. Louis.
“We came in here on a seven-game bender,” he said. “We looked each other in the eyes and we decided to play, to show up and go after those guys. That’s who we are and who we are going to be from here on out.”
After a day off Thursday, the Reds get to prove that Friday night when they play the first game of a three-game series against the Chicago Cubs in Great American Ball Park.