The Los Angeles Dodgers' ace followed up his sensational one-man show on opening day with seven innings of two-hit ball and nine strikeouts in a spirited duel with A.J. Burnett, beating Pittsburgh 1-0 Saturday night and handing the Pirates their second straight shutout loss in this three-game series.
"For me it just starts with throwing strikes," Kershaw said. "Just keep pumping the strike zone and letting the defense work. That's kind of my mindset."
Kershaw (2-0) walked one and retired 17 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff single in the first inning to Starling Marte.
"My fastball wasn't great tonight," Kershaw said. "I was reaching back and didn't have a whole lot in the tank, for whatever reason. But I was able to keep them a little bit off-balance and was able to get some big 3-2 strikeouts with the slider."
Kershaw's latest gem came one night after Zack Greinke held the Bucs to two hits over 6 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory.
"Right now the offense isn't scoring a ton of runs, so the pitchers have got to pick up the hitters—just like we expect them to pick us up when we're struggling," Kershaw said.
Brandon League followed Paco Rodriguez and Kenley Jansen out of the bullpen and pitched a hitless ninth for his second save.
Burnett (0-2) was charged with a run and four hits in 5 1-3 innings, walked four and struck out nine—including Matt Kemp all three times he faced him.
The right-hander was coming off a 10-strikeout, 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs in the Pirates' opener.
"I left it on the field, I know that," Burnett said. "Like I said after my first start, you want to go deep into games, obviously. This was a pitcher's duel right there, man. You're going up against one of the best, so I just wanted to go out there and do what that kid was doing."
Burnett is 1-7 with a 3.04 ERA over his last nine starts since the beginning of last September, receiving fewer than three runs of support in eight of them—and the Pirates have been shut out four times during that stretch. Now that he's their No.1 starter, he'll probably keep getting few runs to work with because he's facing the other team's ace. But that doesn't concern him.
"I want to go up against every ace. That's what I'm here for," Burnett said. "I'm not worried about run support. That's not my thing. That's beyond my control."
Carl Crawford drew a leadoff walk in the Dodgers' first and stole second, but was stranded there as Burnett struck out Mark Ellis, Kemp and Adrian Gonzalez. Crawford stole second again after his two-out single in the third, and Ellis drove him in with a ground single through the left side.
The Dodgers have won 11 of their last 12 games against the Pirates and eight straight in Los Angeles. The only loss came in their final meeting of last season, when Garrett Jones hit a pair of three-run homers in support of Burnett's 10-6 victory.
The Pirates haven't hit a home run through their first five games—tying the 1998 and 1967 squads for the club's longest drought from the start of a season since the middle of World War II (11 games in 1943). That year they hit only two in their first 26 contests.
"We're going through a rough patch, but there's a lot of talent in the room and guys who have some pop. So I don't think we're worried about it," said catcher Russell Martin, who began his career with the Dodgers.
NOTES: Kemp has struck out five times in five official career at-bats against Burnett, and has walked twice. He grounded into an inning-ending double play with two on in the seventh against Mark Melancon, and is off to a 1-for-18 start. ... Entering this start, Burnett had allowed as many hits as he had strikeouts (1,981). ... The Pirates lost three times by 1-0 scores last season and were shut out 15 times all together.