LOS ANGELES (AP) - With his Cincinnati Reds facing major league ERA leader Clayton Kershaw, Dusty Baker sent Homer Bailey to the mound and hoped for the best.
Bailey did just fine, pitching seven innings and scattering seven hits. But one of them was a two-run homer by Hanley Ramirez in the sixth, and Kershaw made it stand up with eight stellar innings as the Reds lost 2-1 to the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers - Bailey's fourth loss in four starts since his July 2 no-hitter at San Francisco.
``There's a reason why Kershaw's had the best ERA in the last three years, so it was out of my control,' said Bailey, who has thrown two no-hitters. ``The last three times out I've faced him, Jeff Locke and that dude from Atlanta (Mike Minor) - he's got about a 2-something ERA. So what can you do? I mean, I'd like to face a guy with an ERA over 3.00. That would be great.'
Bailey (5-10) gave up a leadoff single to Adrian Gonzalez in the sixth, and Ramirez followed with a drive that just cleared the left-field fence. It was his 11th homer of the season and 10th since coming off the disabled list on June 4.
``I made a pretty good pitch to Hanley there, a pitch that he had taken earlier in the game,' Bailey said. ``My numbers in the past against him had always been pretty good (1 for 12 coming in), but he's hot right now.'
Ryan Hanigan, who was behind the plate for both of Bailey's no-hitters, hasn't caught him since the second one because of an injured left wrist that has sidelined him for the last 14 games. Corky Miller, who at 37 is the oldest catcher to start in a game for the Reds since Bob Scheffing in 1951, has been behind the plate for Bailey's last three outings.
``Corky's done a great job,' Bailey said. ``I've known Corky a long time. He calls a good game and he really busts his butt out there. I feel comfortable with all three of our catchers. They all do such a great job back there.'
Kershaw (10-6) allowed a run and six hits, struck out eight and walked none, dropping his ERA to 1.96. The 2011 NL Cy Young Award winner's career ERA of 2.67 is the lowest since 1920 by any pitcher with at least 100 starts and 1,000 innings. Whitey Ford and Sandy Koufax are second and third on that list.
``They've got a great team over there, great lineup,' Kershaw said. ``The key is to get these middle guys and not to give them any opportunities.'
Brandon Phillips led off the Reds' seventh with a double inside first base, and Jay Bruce singled him home two pitches later. Until then, the Reds had gotten only one runner past second base.
Cincinnati got its fourth double of the game in the eighth, when pinch-hitter Derrick Robinson tucked a grounder inside third base with one out. But Kershaw retired Shin-Soo Choo on a comebacker and then got Chris Heisey to pop out to second baseman Mark Ellis in short center field on his 118th and final pitch after getting a visit from manager Don Mattingly.
``Both guys were dealing tonight, and it was a very good game. We just came out on the short end,' Baker said. ``You know you're not going to get a lot of chances to score off Kershaw, but we did have some and we hit some balls hard off him. It was a tough one to lose.'
The Dodgers put runners at the corners with one out in the fourth. But the threat ended with a double play started by Bruce, who caught Juan Uribe's flyball in right field and threw on the fly to Miller a few feet up the third-base line. Miller's sweep tag missed Ramirez, who ran past the plate and was tagged out on the leg as he scrambled back.
``I couldn't slide. He was in the way,' Ramirez said. ``That's how I hurt myself in the Dominican last year. He blocked the plate, I tripped and I landed on my right shoulder.'
Ramirez, who singled in the fourth, has reached base with either a hit or a walk in 34 straight games, the second-longest active streak behind Joey Votto's 38 in a row with the Reds.
``We knew we had the capability of doing this,' Gonzalez said. ``He's been swinging a hot bat. When he's going like this, we kind of all jump on his back. And my job is to create opportunities for him.'
The Dodgers maintained their half-game lead over Arizona and are a major league-best 24-6 since June 21, when they were a season-worst 12 games out of first place.
Ramirez is one of the primary reasons for that resurgence, batting .387 with 11 homers and 33 RBIs in 47 games despite two stints on the disabled list because of a hamstring strain and an injured right thumb that required surgery.
Kenley Jansen's save was his 13th in 16 chances, and it was a quality one. He retired Votto on a flyball before striking out Phillips and Bruce, whose three Ks raised his season total to 127, the most in the NL.
NOTES: Baker has an 89-108 managerial record against Los Angeles in his 20 combined seasons with the Reds, Giants and Cubs. He played eight seasons for the Dodgers. ... Since the start of the 2010 season, Bruce leads all left-handed batters with 41 home runs against lefty pitchers - including seven this season. But Kershaw hasn't given up a home run to a left-handed batter since Adam Dunn's two-run shot for the Chicago White Sox at Dodger Stadium on June 15, 2012. ... Miller, whose uniform number is the same as his age, threw out Yasiel Puig trying to steal second base in the first inning. It was the fourth time in 10 attempts that the rookie has been unsuccessful, and the first time Miller has thrown out a runner this season. He is 1 for 8 in that regard. ... Puig was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts.
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