Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly was talking Tuesday afternoon about the importance of Zack Greinke's return to the rotation when he hit upon an unfortunate comparison.

"Getting him back," he said "kind of gives you another Kershaw."

Consider that wishful thinking. Because a couple of hours later Kershaw went out and proved there's no one like him, with the Dodgers or in any other rotation, by dominating the Washington Nationals through 82/3 innings in a 2-0 victory.

Kershaw gave up five hits and struck out 11, coming within a strike of his second shutout of the season, leading the Dodgers to only their third victory in their last 12 games.

"It's hard to say you've seen him better," Mattingly said. "But there are a lot of games where you feel that way.

"Clayton, you always feel like he's going to be really good."

And he may be improving. In his last four outings, Kershaw has given up only two earned runs in 222/3 innings, dropping his earned-run average to a major league-best 1.40 and his career mark to 2.70, the lowest by a starter since 1920 with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched.

"I haven't been playing very long. So there's a lot of time to screw that up," said Kershaw, who had a game ball tucked in a plastic bag at his locker, commemorating the feat.

The left-hander struck out eight of the first 12 batters he retired, including six in a row. And after the Nationals loaded the bases on two singles and a walk in a 29-pitch first inning, Kershaw allowed only three batters to reach base the rest of the way.

The Dodgers scored the only runs they would need in the third inning, and fittingly Kershaw was right in the middle of things, starting the rally by taking a two-strike pitch off his foot.