Clayton Kershaw flirts with no-hitter before Dodgers hold off Diamondbacks, 4-3

The ball squirted to his right, and Cody Bellinger had a fraction of a second to decide. Break to his right, and the pitcher would have to cover first base. Break to cover the base, and the ball might dribble into the outfield for a hit.

Clayton Kershaw had not given up a hit. It was the seventh inning. Of course Bellinger would break to his right.

He did. He never did get to the ball. The second baseman, Logan Forsythe, got there first. Kershaw had scrambled to first base, in time to catch the throw, but not in time to tag the bag before the runner could.

The no-hitter was over. If Bellinger had covered the bag, the no-hitter probably would have remained intact.

The sellout crowd would not be sitting in on history. The fans applauded Kershaw. He did not acknowledge their salute. He still had work to do.

He gave up that infield single, and later in the inning an outfield single. He had more work to do, completing that inning, exhausted and otherwise.

When it was all over, the best pitcher in baseball had extended his streak of consecutive innings without giving up an earned run to 20. He had struck out 11. He had lowered his earned-run average to 2.19.

And, most importantly for the Dodgers, he had helped put a game’s cushion between his team and its closest pursuer, with a home run from Justin Turner, three hits from Yasmani Grandal, and those seven shutout innings padding the home team’s lead to 3 1/2 games in the National League West.

The Dodgers survived a shaky ninth inning for a 4-3 victory. The Diamondbacks got two runners on base against Brandon Morrow, and closer Kenley Jansen gave up a three-run home run to Daniel Descalso.

Turner, celebrating his lead in the race for the final spot on the NL All-Star roster, nearly hit two home runs.

In the first inning, he launched a ball off the top of the left-field wall. It caromed back into play — a long single, but one that drove in Logan Forsythe with the game’s first run.

In the third inning, Turner left no doubt, launching a ball over the center-field wall for his eighth home run of the season. Later in the inning, Chris Taylor doubled and Grandal singled him home, giving the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. Grandal also singled home Taylor in the eighth inning.

Kershaw probably would not have completed a no-hitter. He was at 92 pitches when he started the seventh inning, at 107 pitches three batters into the inning, when it would have been over had Bellinger covered first base on that infield single.

Kershaw has not thrown more than 118 pitches this season. His manager, Dave Roberts, removed two pitchers from no-hitters last season.

As it was, Kershaw finished with 117 pitches. The Dodgers had scheduled him for Sunday, which would have made him ineligible for the All-Star game and opened a spot that could be filled by teammate Alex Wood. Now, perhaps, the Dodgers might give Kershaw extra rest.

But they also are another game up on the Diamondbacks, the team with the second-best record in the division and the league. It might not have been a historical night for the home team, but it was a very good one.

Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin

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