LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw showed everyone he was on his game early, striking out the side in the second inning while retiring the game's first 16 batters.
The 27-year-old left-hander tied his mentor Sandy Koufax's franchise record of six straight 200-strikeout seasons while tossing eight scoreless innings, and the NL West-leading Los Angeles Dodgers defeated the Washington Nationals 3-0 Wednesday night for their 17th shutout win.
"He's Clayton Kershaw," Dodgers shortstop Kike Hernandez said. "He's the best pitcher on the planet."
Kershaw equaled the mark set by Koufax from 1961-66. Koufax and Tom Seaver (1968-76) are the only pitchers in modern NL history to accomplish the feat in six or more consecutive seasons.
"Not the most important thing in the world, but it's cool to be associated with those guys," he said.
Kershaw (10-6) took a perfect game bid into the sixth inning, when Michael Taylor doubled to deep center field. Kershaw retired the next two batters on grounders to end the inning.
"I like consistency," Kershaw said. "When you start looking around at the Mark Buehrle streaks, the Dan Harens, the guys that don't go on the DL, the guys that are around for a long time, I have a lot of respect for those guys. Hopefully in 10 years or so, I'll be in that category."
Kershaw is unbeaten in his last seven starts and he reached double-digit wins for the sixth straight year. The reigning Cy Young Award winner and league MVP gave up three hits and struck out eight in a game that lasted 2 hours, 20 minutes.
"I had a lot of things working in my favor, which is always nice," he said. "I had a little more life just all the way around, everything was a little crisper, I had better command."
Anthony Rendon singled leading off the seventh and Taylor singled in the eighth for the only other hits off Kershaw. The Nationals dropped the season series 4-2 after getting outscored 8-0 in the last two games.
"I just tried to stick with my game plan and not do too much," Taylor said. "The first at-bat I was late on the fastball, so I thought I'd try to shorten up on my swing and get in a good position."
Kenley Jansen struck out two in a scoreless ninth to earn his 22nd save in 23 chances.
Pinch-hitter Andre Ethier extended the Dodgers' lead to 3-0 in the eighth. He doubled to deep right field and second baseman Rendon's throwing error allowed Ethier and Joc Pedersen, who was hit by a pitch, to score.
Carl Crawford's RBI single with two outs in the third gave the Dodgers a 1-0 lead.
Jordan Zimmermann (8-8) nearly matched Kershaw, giving up two hits and one run in seven innings while losing his third straight decision. He struck out a season-high nine, including Adrian Gonzalez three times, and walked one.
"My fastball command was good," Zimmermann said. "I just made one mistake, and when you're going against a guy like Clayton, you've got to be perfect."
Kershaw was backed by two sparkling plays from Hernandez, who played shortstop after Jimmy Rollins wasn't in the starting lineup. Hernandez bobbled a ball hit by Bryce Harper with two outs in the third, but recovered and threw to first base in time to preserve the perfect game.
"I was trying to keep myself out of the error column," Hernandez said. "It took a funny hop. Luckily it hit my hand and stayed close to me."
After Taylor's double spoiled Kershaw's perfect game, Hernandez fell going for a sharply hit ball by Yunel Escobar. He got up, did a 180-turn and fired a one-bounce throw to first that ended the inning.
Nationals: CF Denard Span, sidelined since early July because of back tightness, has been doing some throwing, running and light swinging. The team is proceeding with caution because of a minor setback Span had last week during batting practice. ... RHP Davis Carpenter, who hasn't pitched since June 5 due to shoulder inflammation, is throwing on flat ground and could have a bullpen session soon.
Dodgers: INF Justin Turner will be activated in the next couple days off the 15-day DL, where he landed with a right thigh skin infection that he said was MRSA, a contagious and antibiotic-resistant staph bacteria. He got in conditioning work Wednesday.
Crawford started in the leadoff spot for the first time since last Aug. 12, going 3 for 4 with a double and a RBI single. His three hits were a season high and he raised his career batting average against the Nationals to .457 in 21 games.
Bryce Harper was back in the starting lineup a night after a sore knee sidelined him. He was hitless in four at-bats with two strikeouts, snapping his hitting streak at 10 games.
Nationals: RHP Stephen Strasburg (6-5, 4.76 ERA) starts the four-game series at San Francisco. He is 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three career starts at AT&T Park, while never allowing more than two earned runs and striking out seven in each of his three outings.
Dodgers: RHP Mat Latos (4-8, 4.67) starts the four-game home series against Cincinnati. He is coming off a loss last weekend in Pittsburgh in which he allowed six runs and seven hits in four innings while not having a strikeout.