Throwing a career-high 132 pitches, the magnificent Clayton Kershaw came within one strike of a shutout before settling for a 2-0 victory Tuesday over Washington.
Kershaw entered the ninth inning with 114 pitches under his belt (about 60 of those coming in the first three innings, then about 50 over the next five). He gave up two warning-track fly outs, then endured a 10-pitch battle with Adam La Roche that ended with a single to center.
The 25-year-old lefty, who crossed the 1,000-inning mark in his career, struck out 11 and allowed five hits and a walk. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the first, Kershaw struck out the next batter … and the next five.
Brandon League, as you might have guessed amid his ongoing struggles, was not given the opportunity to close. Kenley Jansen and Paco Rodriguez warmed up in the bullpen behind Kershaw in the ninth, and it was Jansen who struck out Tyler Moore to end the game.
Kershaw lowered his ERA to 1.40, taking over the major-league lead. In his past four starts, he has allowed two earned runs in 30 2/3 innings for a 0.59 ERA with 32 strikeouts against 16 baserunners.
He also scored the Dodgers first run, starting the bottom of the third by getting hit by a pitch. One out later, Matt Kemp singled, and one out and a wild pitch later, Andre Ethier singled them both home.
Kershaw’s previous career high in pitches in a single game was 125, on July 26, 2011. He threw a 108-pitch complete game in his next start, allowed four runs in the one after that, and then had a 0.96 ERA the rest of the 2011 season.
One more thing to scare the rest of the baseball world: Kershaw currently has a 1.40 ERA, and every full season of his career, he has been a better second-half pitcher.
2009: 3.16 first half, 2.27 second half
2010: 2.96 first half, 2.84 second half
2011: 3.03 first half, 1.31 second half
2012: 2.91 first half, 2.10 second half