Clayton Kershaw went after seven with a great game; the Dodgers are off the top spot

Clayton Kershaw went after seven with a great game; the Dodgers are off the top spot ...

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) After facing no resistance from the Minnesota Twins, Clayton Kershaw was in excellent form be it perfect during his season debut for the Los Angeles Dodgers, leaving no concern about his health.

When it was time for manager Dave Roberts to relieve him, Kershaw did not put up a fight, too.

Kershaw scored 13 strikeouts in 21 batters in a 7-0 victory over the Dodgers for the Dodgers.

"These are selfish goals. We're trying to win. That's really what we're here for," Kershaw said.

After the sixth, Roberts consulted with Kershaw, and the three-time NL Cy Young Award winner told him his preference: one more inning with an 85-pitch limit.

I would have loved to stay, but bigger things, man, bigger things, Kershaw said.

On a sunny, windy afternoon at Target Field, Alex Vesia entered for the eighth to boos from the blue-clad Dodgers fans in the crowd of 17,101. Vesia gave Minnesota the first and only hit, a one-out single by Gary Sanchez.

In the eighth, Cody Bellinger, Gavin Lux, and Austin Barnes beat reliever Dereck Rodriguez, who made his Twins debut.

Chris Paddack hit six hits and three runs before being traded with the Padres.

In the first, Justin Turner hit a two-run single, Trea Turner had a sacrifice fly, and Max Muncy advanced deep into the ninth for the Dodgers, who won a 7-2 game the night before, which was paused for 1 1/2 hours owing to rain and ended after midnight.

Kershaw was very pleased.

In response to the limited spring training schedule, Kershaw was placed fifth in the rotation out of the gate. This unusual task was to give his arm more time to strengthen.

"Blame it on the lockout. Blame it on me not picking up a baseball until January," Kershaw said of his slider. "My slider was terrible the last two innings. It didn't have the bite. It was time."

Kershaw tossed 41 sliders with 17 swinging strikes, and he beat every Twins batter at least once, except Gio Urshela, who grounded out to the third and flied out to right in his first two at-bats.

"He's been playing like that for years. He's been having a lot of success," said Urshela, who struck a sharp grounder up the middle with two outs in the seventh that skidded under Kershaw's glove as he tried to backhand the ball.

Lux, who was dropped to the shortstop side of his second base, made a slick pick and throw for the inning-ending out.

"Every decision I make is for the player, their health, and the ballclub, because there are a lot of people who support the Dodgers, not just for today and Clayton to throw a no-hitter, but for the Dodgers to win the World Series." Roberts said. "For us to do that, we need him to be healthy."

FAMILIAR FEELS

Roberts has retraced a starting pitcher with a no-hitter before. Walker Buehler left his bats with a blister after seven excellent innings in September 2016, and Ross Stripling was removed after seven 1/3 innings in April 2016.

Roberts said that "these guys make it difficult on me."

TEAM PLAYER

After his day on the field, Kershaw hugged his catcher Barnes.

"He said, "Sorry," Barnes said. I knew it was the right call and stuff like that, but I thought we might get it done. "That's baseball."

FOR THE SCRAPBOOK

Kershaw's 66th career double-digit strikeout game in 380 regular season appearances. The Twins became the 27th major league team he encountered, missing only the Red Sox and Orioles. He did pitch against Boston in the 2018 World Series.

MAYBE CORREA WOULD HAVE BEEN AWAY HELPED

As a reaction to the late night on Tuesday, the Twins gave shortstop Carlos Correa a rest and center fielder Byron Buxton a turn at DH. Buxton struck out all three times.

UP NEXT

RHP Walker Buehler (1-0, 1.80 ERA) wins the home match against Cincinnati. LHP Reiver Sanmartin (-1, 19.29 ERA) prepares for the Dodgers' four-game series.

Rockies: After a good day on Thursday, RHP Joe Ryan (-1, 4.50 ERA) enters Fenway Park on Friday to begin a four-game series against Boston. RHP Nick Pivetta (-1, 6.35 ERA) starts for the Red Sox.

Dave Campbell, Associated Press Sports writer, is a journalist.

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