LOS ANGELES -- The fact that Dodgers RBI leader Matt Kemp has homered in only two of Clayton Kershaw's career-high 14 victories this season gives more credence to the kind of season the All-Star left-hander is putting together in his fourth big league campaign.
Kemp gave him a head start with a two-run shot in the first inning against Wandy Rodriguez.
"Matty's our guy, and it's always nice to get two runs like that with him going deep," Kershaw said. "Anytime he hits homers, we feel pretty confident in ourselves. It's almost unfair, because we almost expect it out of him. His talent's really taken over for us. It's awesome."
Kemp, who began the day third in the NL in RBI, fourth in home runs and fifth in batting average, is two homers away from matching his career-best total of 26 from last season. He also is 13 RBI shy of his career-high total of 101 in 2009.
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This was the seventh time this season that Kershaw (14-5) started a game in which Kemp homered. The first five were no-decisions -- one of which was June 4, when Kemp went deep twice at Cincinnati. Kemp homered in Kershaw's 6-4 win July 15 at Arizona.
"It's always satisfying," Kemp said after ending an 11-game home run drought. "We're pretty confident that if we get Kershaw a couple of runs, he's not going to give that lead up. He's definitely one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. He's dominating, he's doing his thing, and I'm glad I don't have to face him. He's making some hitters look like they don't have a clue of what they're doing up there. He's got some nasty stuff."
The Dodgers converted veteran first baseman Carlos Lee's error into a pair of unearned runs in the first. Leadoff man Jamey Carroll reached when Lee fielded his grounder toward the hole and flipped the ball behind Rodriguez as he raced to cover the bag. Carroll was erased on a fielder's choice grounder by Andre Ethier, and Kemp drove an 0-1 pitch into the pavilion seats in left-center for his 26th homer.
Kershaw won for the sixth time in his last seven starts, allowing a run and six hits over eight innings. He struck out nine and walked one. Kershaw is 9-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 13 starts at Dodger Stadium this season. The only loss was on April 16 against St. Louis.
"There's something comforting about pitching at home because you do it the most, obviously, so you're used to it," Kershaw said. "Not to mention, this ballpark is a pretty good place to pitch. Wins are the most important thing -- not necessarily my individual record, but just team wins when I'm pitching. As long as we're winning, it doesn't matter what my record is."
In his other start against the Astros this season, Kershaw had a no-decision despite allowing one run over six innings.
"He's always had good stuff, from the first time I faced him," Astros shortstop Clint Barmes said. "So it's not surprising that he's only gotten better as he's gotten more experience. He's obviously got great stuff, and that only makes his off-speed stuff better. His command was on tonight and he attacked the zone. He hides the ball well and it gets on you pretty quick, so it makes him very effective."
Rodriguez (8-9) was charged with five runs, two earned, and six hits in six innings. The left-hander is 2-6 with a 4.50 ERA over his last eight starts, after going 3-1 with a 1.80 ERA in June -- including a 7-0 win at Dodger Stadium in which he pitched six innings.
The Astros, who have baseball's worst record at 38-82, mathematically clinched their third straight losing season with their fifth consecutive loss and 17th in 22 games. Their only run came on an eighth-inning double by rookie J.D. Martinez, who has 15 RBI in his first 13 big league games.
"It's been hard. But one thing you can say about this group is that we show up every day trying to win, and we play hard," Barmes said. "You try to learn from your mistakes and try not to repeat them. And there's been a lot to learn from, obviously. I definitely think the young talent in here is only going to get better. Our pitching staff gives us a chance every night, and that's about all you can ask for at this point."
Los Angeles increased its margin to 4-0 with a pair of runs in the fifth. Kershaw laid down a bunt to the left of the plate with runners at the corners and none out, and Tony Gwynn Jr. avoided the tag by Carlos Corporan with a headfirst slide after the rookie catcher came out from behind the plate to field the ball up the third-base line. The play was scored as a fielder's choice.
Jamey Carroll then bunted to rookie third baseman Jimmy Paredes, whose high throw to first pulled Lee off the bag. The rookie's first error loaded the bases for Casey Blake, who drove in Justin Sellers with a line-drive sacrifice fly. Sellers singled during the rally for his first big league hit.
Gwynn scored the Dodgers' fifth run when he stole third and continued home on Corporan's throwing error in the sixth inning. Gwynn had three hits, including a triple.
- Kershaw, who was 13-10 last season, is closing in on his second straight 200-strikeout season with an NL-leading 193. The last Dodger to win a league strikeout title in a regulation 162-game season was Sandy Koufax in 1966 (317). Fernando Valenzuela (1981) and Hideo Nomo (1995) did it in strike-shortened seasons.
- Rodriguez has allowed five home runs against the Dodgers in 62 1/3 career innings, and has given up fewer than three earned runs in eight of his 10 starts against them.