Loney hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh inning and the Los Angeles Dodgers stopped Atlanta's surge with a 5-4 victory on Friday night.
"I walked too many guys and gave them to many opportunities," Kershaw said. "It was just one of those nights for me. But it was good for us to get a win against a good team and be able to judge ourselves against a first-place team and see how we stack up. Everybody's stepping up right now and we're playing good baseball."
Kuo (1-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the victory and Jonathan Broxton worked a perfect ninth for his 14th save in 16 chances.
Kawakami (0-8) gave up five runs and nine hits in 6 1/3 innings.
"He's given us a chance to win - especially in his last four outings," catcher David Ross said. "He kept us in the ballgame. I don't think he was quite as sharp early on. He left some balls up in the zone, missed his spots, and they got to him. But he really battled tonight without his best stuff.
"Obviously that's a real good lineup over there and they've got really good pitching, just like we do. So it's always going to be a fun matchup when we play these guys."
Kershaw was charged with four runs, three earned, and five hits over 6 2/3 innings, striking out eight and walking five. He was particularly upset about a free pass to Troy Glaus before Kuo relieved him.
"It was a really frustrating at-bat with Glaus," Kershaw said. "I mean, you get him 0-2 and you've got to finish him. It was just my fault -- from 0-2 to a walk, that's just terrible. You can't do that. He's their hottest hitter right now, so you've got to pitch him careful -- but not that careful."
One of the key plays for Kershaw came in the sixth. Ross drew a leadoff walk and Nate McLouth followed with a bunt single that third baseman Jamey Carroll had no play on. Kawakami then came up in an obvious sacrifice situation, but catcher Russell Martin caught Ross leaning too far off second and picked off the former Dodgers catcher.
The Dodgers grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first on Ethier's sacrifice fly and Ronnie Belliard's RBI double. They added two more in the second when Rafael Furcal hit a run-scoring triple and scored on Matt Kemp's fly ball to center.
Atlanta came back with two runs in the third. Escobar singled in Martin Prado with two out. Omar Infante then scored when Carroll got distracted by Melky Cabrera's broken bat and misplayed his grounder for an error.
Carroll started at third for the second straight game because of Casey Blake's back spasms. Blake underwent an MRI on Friday and is expected to miss at least another couple of games.
The last time Kershaw and Kawakami squared off against each other was on Aug. 8, 2009, at Dodger Stadium. They each pitched seven scoreless innings and the Braves won 2-1 in 10. That was Kershaw's only other start against Atlanta, and Kawakami's only other start against Los Angeles.
"From what I saw tonight and from what he's done in his last four starts, he's pitching a lot better than an 0-8 record," Kershaw said of Kawakami. "I'm sure he's frustrated that he's not getting any wins, but he's a better pitcher than that."
- The news of former UCLA basketball coach John Wooden's death at age 99 didn't break until after the first pitch, so there was no moment of silence. But Dodgers Hall of Fame announcer Vin Scully spoke directly to the crowd after the sixth inning by way of a recorded message on the Diamond Vision, and the crowd of 42,459 gave the beloved Wizard of Westwood a standing ovation.
- The Dodgers and Braves are a major league-best 22-9 since May 1.