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Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw flirts with perfection in victory over Angels

ANAHEIM — Clayton Kershaw made a run at history, but had to settle for mere dominance.

The Dodgers left-hander was within six outs of a perfect game when Angels infielder Luis Rengifo yanked a double down the left-field line, spoiling at least some of the party for the blue-clad fans among the sellout crowd of 44,648 on Friday night at Angel Stadium.

They still had plenty of fun, though, in the Dodgers’ 9-1 victory over the Angels in the opener of the abbreviated two-game Freeway Series.

Kershaw allowed only that hit in eight shutout innings against an Angels lineup that has struggled for most of the season. The Angels were further depleted by the absence of Mike Trout, who is day to day with back spasms.

It seemed that Kershaw had a legitimate chance at the 24th perfect game in major league history, and the first in 10 years, because he was sailing through the Angels’ lineup without much trouble.

“After like the sixth inning, you kind of feel the crowd getting into it,” Kershaw said. “Once you get to the seventh inning, you get to the top of the order again, you feel like maybe you’ve got a chance at this. Just a bummer.”

The three-time Cy Young Award winner, whose only career no-hitter came against the Colorado Rockies in 2014, struck out only six on Friday, mostly getting quick outs with the help of his defense.

The Angels only threatened a hit a couple of times, but they were robbed by Dodger infielders. Third baseman Justin Turner made a diving play to his right in the fourth and shortstop Trea Turner made a diving play to his left in the seventh. Second baseman Hanser Alberto made a backhand stab on a Jared Walsh line drive in the fifth.

“Honestly I should’ve given up four or five hits before they got that hit in the eighth there,” Kershaw said. “The defense played unbelievable tonight. JT. Trea. They lined out right to some guys. Hanser made a great play. Just a lot of unbelievable plays all the way around.”

The dream finally died in the eighth, when Rengifo took a 2-and-1 slider at his knees and yanked it over the head of Justin Turner and into left field, for a double. Kershaw retired the next three hitters, ending his night.

“He’s a future Hall of Famer and he had his stuff working tonight against a team that hasn’t been swinging the bats very well,” Angels manager Phil Nevin said. “You tip your cap on a night like that. You could tell from the beginning he had a few pitches that were really working for him and he never strayed away from them.”

Kershaw added: “I really wanted to do it. It would’ve been really fun for everybody involved, the way everybody played tonight. Offense was unbelievable.”

The Dodgers’ offense got going early against Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, although they could have had more than two runs.

Sandoval walked leadoff hitter Mookie Betts, then gave up solid singles to Trea Turner and Freddie Freeman, driving in the first run of the game.

Freeman, a product of El Modena High playing his first game at Angel Stadium since 2011, continued his torrid stretch. He had 13 hits and two walks in his previous 19 plate appearances.

Will Smith then singled into center field, loading the bases. It was the first of four hits for Smith, including a double and a triple.

Sandoval didn’t have an out 16 pitches into the game, but he escaped with minimal damage. He got Justin Turner on a groundout. Alberto then hit a grounder to third baseman Jonathan Villar, who tagged Freeman and then threw to first for the inning-ending double play.

“That’s the most of my stuff has been moving and just didn’t have a good feel for it and the first few batters,” Sandoval said. “Obviously a four-pitch walk to start the game is not how you want to start it. I let the first four guys get on. I just had to battle back.”

Sandoval said he “adjusted my sights” to get his stuff back in the zone.

“Trying to throw my stuff through the zone and let my defense make plays behind me,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval’s defense actually abandoned him in the fifth, or he would have made it through five without another run scoring.

With two outs in the inning, Villar allowed a Justin Turner grounder to sneak under his glove. Alberto then hit a drive to the right field fence and Jo Adell turned the wrong way and had it tick off his glove, for a two-run triple.

Although it was another outfield misplay for a player whose defense has been an issue throughout his big league career, Nevin said Adell has played well overall in the outfield lately.

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