LOS ANGELES (AP) — Joe Mather was playing at Dodger Stadium for the first time in his career, and his timing couldn’t have been worse — in more ways than one.
The center fielder went back on Matt Kemp’s high fly ball in the fourth inning and attempted a leaping catch at the top of the 8-foot fence, but the ball deflected off his glove for a two-run homer. The Chicago Cubs never recovered, as reigning NL Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw held them to three hits over seven innings in Los Angeles’ 3-1 victory Saturday night.
“I didn’t think it was going to go that far with the swing he took, but it ended up carrying and got out of the yard,” Mather said. “I saw the replay, and it was real close. Initially, I thought I should have gotten it. And obviously watching it again, I think that maybe if I had gotten a little better footing and made a little better jump, it’s a different ballgame.”
The home runs haven’t exactly been coming in bunches for Kemp since his hamstring problems began back in May. This one was his 16th of the season and fourth in a span of 33 games and 127 at-bats — after hitting a career-high 39 last season.
“I thought it was going to be a home run, but you never know in this ballpark,” Kemp said. “It’s tough to hit home runs at night here — and after looking at it on the Jumbotron, I think I got a little bit of help. But we won, so it really doesn’t matter.”
Chris Volstad (0-8) remained winless in his last 21 starts despite allowing only two runs and six hits through seven innings. The right-hander is 0-13 with eight no-decisions and a 5.49 ERA since beating Houston 5-4 on July 10 last season with the Marlins, who traded him to the Cubs in January for Carlos Zambrano.
“The streak is there for no reason of his tonight,” Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. “He gave up two runs in seven innings to that lineup, so you’ve far and above done your job to win a baseball game.”
Volstad was recalled from Triple-A Iowa on Wednesday, a day after starters Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm were dealt away before the non-waiver trade deadline. This is Volstad’s third stint with the big club this season, including a 5-1 loss to the Dodgers on May 5 at Wrigley Field.
“It’s been a tough year, that’s for sure,” Volstad said. “You make it through something like that, it will obviously help me in the future. Going up against Kershaw, he’s a tough pitcher, so you knew it was going to be a battle from the get-go. He’s one of the best pitchers in the league. But if you focus on that, it’ll get in the way of throwing pitches.”
Kershaw (9-6) helped the Dodgers remain a half-game behind first-place San Francisco in the NL West. The 24-year-old lefty, coming off a five-hit shutout against the Giants last Sunday, struck out seven and allowed his only run on a fourth-inning double by Alfonso Soriano while lowering his ERA to 2.88.
“He looked good. He was throwing 94 (mph) fastballs with a curveball, changeup and slider, and throwing everything for strikes,” Mather said. “He was really attacking guys’ weaknesses and he didn’t leave a lot of balls over the plate.”
Kershaw walked No. 8 hitter Luis Valbuena his first two times up, and Volstad advanced the runner both times with sacrifice bunts. But Starlin Castro grounded out to third to end the third-inning threat, then took a called third strike to end the fourth. The Cubs’ leadoff hitter is 0 for 13 against Kershaw.
“The curveball wasn’t very good tonight and I didn’t throw a lot of strikes with it, but fortunately I had a decent slider,” Kershaw said. “They came out aggressively and were putting the ball in play early. I’m just trying to go out there every time and give our team a chance to win.”
Soriano’s run-scoring double ended an RBI drought of five games and 23 at-bats since his two-run triple against St. Louis’ Joe Kelly on July 28 at Chicago.
Ronald Belisario pitched a perfect eighth and Kenley Jansen did likewise in the ninth for his 21st save.
The Dodgers added a run in the eighth when Shane Victorino led off with a double and scored on a two-out error by Castro, who couldn’t handle Hanley Ramirez’s hard-hit grounder to shortstop.
NOTES: Cubs 2B Darwin Barney eclipsed Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg’s franchise record for consecutive errorless games in one season at that position with his 91st in a row. The NL single-season record is 113, by David Eckstein with San Diego in 2010. … This was the seventh time in Volstad’s 10 starts this season that the Cubs scored fewer than two runs while he was in the game. … Soriano needs 11 RBIs to reach 1,000 in his big league career. … RHP Joe Blanton will make his Dodgers debut in Sunday’s series finale against Justin Germano.
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