Dodger Thoughts

Jon Weisman's outlet for dealing psychologically with the Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball and life

Honoring His Majesty, Clayton Kershaw

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By Jon Weisman

It was a majestic thing, Clayton Kershaw’s scoreless inning streak, because he glided through so much of it. Forty-one innings, only 11 runners reaching second base, only three of those reaching third. He was the sharpest knife through the most compliant butter. Resistance was futile and all that.

The last thing I expected was for the streak to end on a two-out, 1-2 pitch. I figured if anything, maybe someone would sneak a leadoff double through, and the guy would work his way home.

But Chase Headley of San Diego, with an on-base percentage below .300 and a slugging percentage below .350, found a slider that stayed up, and gave it the ride that broke the hearts of those dreaming of witnessing history — more history.

After that sixth-inning home run, which left Kershaw shy 18 innings — that tantalizingly manageable number — of matching Orel Hershiser, there were two reality checks.

1) San Diego had tied a game that the Dodgers needed to win to stay in first place.

2) Clayton Kershaw was still pitching.

The Dodgers got the run back in the bottom of the sixth, an inning with two hits and half of the Padres’ four errors Thursday. And Kershaw did the rest, retiring 10 of the final 11 batters he faced to complete a three-hit, 2-1 victory.

The streak was over, but Kershaw was interviewed on the field immediately after the game with a smile on his face.

“Yeah, you know, it’s cool,” Kershaw told SportsNet LA’s Alanna Rizzo.  “I’ve said before, you never try to give up runs, so as long as you’re not giving up runs, you’re doing your job. Headley put a good swing on the ball, and that’s what happens. He’s a good hitter.”

Odrisamer Despaigne hardly disappointed in his first career Dodger Stadium appearance and fourth in the Majors, allowing two runs on seven hits in seven innings with seven strikeouts. The Padres’ defense clearly did Despaigne no favors, while Kershaw had nice support from Juan Uribe and Dee Gordon, whose backhand snag of a two-out, fifth-inning grounder up the middle with a runner on second kept Kershaw’s streak alive for one more inning.

Among other consolation prizes, Kershaw tied Luis Tiant for the fifth-longest scoreless streak in the Majors since 1961, behind only Hershiser’s 59, Don Drysdale’s 58, Bob Gibson’s 47 in 1968 and Brandon Webb’s 42 in 2007.

He achieved enough innings in 2014 to officially take over the Major League lead in ERA for the first time in 2014, 1.78 to Adam Wainwright’s 1.79. That will last until at least Saturday, when Wainwright pitches again, and not past Sunday, when Kershaw will once again be an inning shy of qualifying status.

Kershaw joined Sandy Koufax (May 10-June 10, 1966) and Juan Marichal (April 25-May 26, 1967) as the only pitchers in the past 100 years to win eight consecutive starts in a single season while striking out seven or more batters in each game, according to Stats LLC.

The lefty is only 14 strikeouts off the National League strikeout lead, with 126 (Stephen Strasburg 140, Johnny Cueto 134, Zack Greinke 127). Every pitcher in the top 10 has thrown at least 20 more innings than Kershaw. Strasburg has 82 strikeouts in 79 1/3 innings since May 5 — 9.3 strikeouts per nine innings — and somehow, Kershaw has struck out 26 more batters than Strasburg in that time.

Kershaw entered the game with a 9.6 K/BB ratio, and left with it higher.

He has a WHIP of 0.98 covering 888 innings dating back to July 2010.

And streak or not, Kershaw’s incredible run since May 18 continued: 74 innings, 40 hits, 10 walks, 98 strikeouts, eight runs, 0.97 ERA.


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1 Comment

  1. oldbrooklynfan

    Without a doubt, Kershaw is simply magnificent.

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