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Ethier's late hit helps Dodgers edge Cardinals

May 26, 2008 - 1:18 AM By Jonathan Raber PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

LOS ANGELES (Ticker) - Clayton Kershaw's arrival in the big league brought not only a nasty left hand, but also a welcomed sense of freshness.

Andre Ethier lined a game-winning single in the bottom of the 10th inning and Kershaw impressed in his first start as the Los Angeles Dodgers posted a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday.

Russell Martin drove in a pair of runs and rookie Luis Maza belted his first career home run in the highly touted Kershaw's major league debut.

"Most of the guys playing, it wasn't too long ago that we had our first game," Ethier said. "We can relate a lot.

"It's tough to get that same feeling back as your first couple games in the big leagues. Just playing the game every day, you start getting accustomed and familiar with the game up here, you start to lose that freshness.

"It's nice to be able to relate with a guy like him and his new start and first game in the big leagues."

At 20 years and 65 days old, Kershaw became the fourth-youngest starting pitcher in Dodgers history. He took a no-decision, allowing five hits and two earned runs while striking out seven in six innings.

"It's a dream come true," Kershaw said. "It's what you've been working for, dreaming about, thinking about for your whole life. As a baseball player, it doesn't get a whole lot better than that."

Juan Pierre reached on a fielder's choice with one out in the 10th and advanced to second on Mike Parisi's wild pitch against Mark Sweeney, who was retired on strikes. But Ethier got the job done on a 3-2 pitch from Parisi (0-1) with a shot down the first base line to easily bring home Pierre.

"(Martin) is always giving me a hard time to go out there and excite him," Ethier said. "He was yelling at me on the on-deck circle, so I thought I'd go out there and give him something to see."

Takashi Saito (3-1) picked up the win, striking out the side in the top of the 10th. Los Angeles pitchers recorded a season-high 16 strikeouts.

Kershaw, who was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 draft, was called up from Double-A Jacksonville Saturday to occupy the fifth spot in the rotation. In 43 1/3 innings this year, he was 0-3 with a 2.28 earned-run average and 47 strikeouts.

Kershaw burst on the scene in spring training, allowing just one earned run and striking out 19 in 14 innings after climbing through the minors a season ago. He was on a strict pitch count this year with Jacksonville as the Dodgers were biding their time before bringing him up.

"(Kershaw's) the real deal," Los Angeles manager Joe Torre said. "This certainly was a step forward for him, getting this one out of the way."

Kershaw fanned Skip Schumaker to open the game on a 95 mile-per-hour fastball. Two batters later, he got a taste of big-league ball when perennial All-Star Albert Pujols laced an RBI double down the line in left to put the Cardinals up, 1-0.

But the southpaw settled down to strike out the following two batters on the way to retiring 12 of the next 14 hitters. He exited with the score tied after working out of a jam with two runners on in the sixth.

"I was expecting him to throw a good game," Martin said. "I have high expectations for that kid. He just has fun out there, he goes about his business the right way, and you can just tell that he's really happy to be up here."

Martin's two-out single plated Pierre in the bottom of sixth for a 3-2 lead, putting Kershaw in line for his first win. However, the Cardinals struck back in their next at-bat when former Dodgers shortstop Cesar Izturis scored on Aaron Miles' sacrifice fly to even the score.

"We battled," said Cardinals starter Todd Wellemeyer, who gave up three runs in six innings. " I thought we played very well, we ran the bases really well, we just didn't get the breaks when we needed them."

The Dodgers got on the board in the bottom of the first when Maza homered to left off Wellemeyer to tie it at 1-1.

With his first appearance behind him and all the goose bumps gone, Kershaw can now relax knowing that he earned himself a second start - and most likely plenty more.

"I got another start Friday, so it's time to start preparing for that," Kershaw said.