KANSAS CITY -- Clayton Kershaw wasn't perfect or even unhittable Tuesday night, just the run-of-the-mill Cy Young version that shut out the Royals on six hits for eight innings in the Dodgers' 2-0 Interleague win.
Kershaw wasn't even pleased with the way he did it, no surprise for someone coming off a no-hitter.
"It definitely wasn't easy. My fastball command was all over the place," he said. "Just wasn't going where I wanted it to for most of the game -- a little erratic tonight." Suspense about whether Kershaw would threaten Johnny Vander Meer's 76-year-old record of back-to-back no-hitters ended with the second batter, Eric Hosmer, and his clean single to left field. The first batter, Lorenzo Cain, tried to bunt for a hit before striking out.
Getting an extra day of rest after his 15-strikeout no-hitter against the Rockies, Kershaw raised his record to 8-2 and lowered his ERA to 2.24 with a fifth consecutive victory. He struck out eight and hasn't allowed a run in his last 21 innings. Six strikeouts finished on swing-and-miss sliders.
"It's the best slider we've seen all year long," Royals manager Ned Yost said. "I mean, that thing had teeth, it was biting."
He fell one inning short of being the first Dodgers pitcher with back-to-back shutouts since Hideo Nomo in 1995. But he is the first pitcher in MLB to throw eight scoreless innings after a no-hitter since Tommy Greene in 1991.
Kershaw made 107 pitches during the no-hitter and 108 in this game. Manager Don Mattingly said he never considered letting Kershaw pitch the ninth inning, which was handled perfectly by Kenley Jansen for his 23rd save as the Dodgers pulled within three games of the first-place Giants in the National League West, the closest they've been since May 7.
Mattingly said he nearly pulled Kershaw after seven innings and Kershaw admitted this game was "a little more stressful" than the no-hitter.
"The no-hitter was stressful for a different reason," he said. "We had the game wrapped up. There were a lot more stressful pitches tonight."
Catcher A.J. Ellis called it a "really gutsy game" by his best buddy, then was willing to shed some light on what makes Kershaw, Kershaw.
"I think it was good having an off-day after the no-hitter, so he got to spend some time with his wife, but the next day he was the first guy on the field in San Diego, getting ready for this start," Ellis said. "That's what makes him different and special. His dedication to the routine and unwavering desire to win. It will keep him separate for a long time.
"I tried to keep up with him in the past. Now just watching him and I get tired. Tomorrow he'll start preparing for Sunday and St. Louis. It's a grind, 162 games. As humans and athletes, we get lazy and selfish and stupid. He never does that. It's paid dividends, so why risk changing it? The last thing he wants to say is, what if?"
With Hanley Ramirez nursing a sore shoulder, Juan Uribe still rehabbing at Class A Rancho Cucamonga, Yasiel Puig the designated hitter and Dee Gordon getting a scheduled day off, the bottom three of the Dodgers batting order consisted of Jamie Romak, Carlos Triunfel and Miguel Rojas.
Rojas, who saved Kershaw's no-hitter and shutout last week, saved the shutout and likely the win this time with a defensive gem to end the seventh inning. Justin Turner, in an 11-pitch at-bat, did his Gordon impersonation leading off the game with a triple beyond the reach of a diving Cain in right-center.
"I didn't want to battle and fight and end up losing," said Turner.
The Royals played the infield in and got Matt Kemp on a grounder to shortstop. Puig beat out an infield single deflected by pitcher Danny Duffy to third baseman Danny Valencia that withstood a challenge by Yost, but Turner was not running on contact and stayed at third base. He finally scored on Adrian Gonzalez's forceout grounder.
Kershaw's shutout bid was preserved in the seventh with a tricky two-out play by Rojas with runners on the corners. Rojas raced behind the second-base bag for Alcides Escobar's bouncer that got past Kershaw. Rojas' throw to first just got Escobar.
The Dodgers scored an insurance run in the ninth when Gonzalez walked, was singled to second by Ellis and singled home by pinch-hitter Andre Ethier.
Ken Gurnick is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.