Clayton Kershaw Is the Best Pitcher in Baseball
Clayton Kershaw continues to stun everyone in baseball.
Through the first three innings, it was clear that he did not have command of his fastball. Whether he was being squeezed by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds or his command simply escaped him, he could not throw that pitch over for a strike — he walked leadoff hitter Christian Yelich on four fastballs.
Kershaw never abandoned the fastball, but he started using the slider to get strikes. He got Giancarlo Stanton to an 0-2 count on two sliders before getting him to miss on the curveball.
The pitch count starting getting up there. 20 pitches through the first inning. 17 pitches in the second. 17 in the third.
Despite everything working against him, Kershaw made sure to do one thing: not let a run score.
I don't know what happened after that third inning. I don't know if it was the three runs the Dodgers scored in the top of the fourth, sparked by Kershaw's own bases loaded two-out single that got the scoring started. I don't know if he made minor tweaks with his delivery, release point or other such minutiae that a mere writer like myself can't tell.
Whatever it was, Kershaw then went on cruise control. Seven pitches in the fourth. 11 in the fifth.
And there is where the measure of a great pitcher is. On a day when you don't have your best stuff, how do you respond? Kershaw responded by needing only 49 more pitches to keep the shutout through eight innings. His ERA dropped from 1.80 to 1.72.
1.72!!!! This is Pedro Martinez and Greg Maddux territory here. And just for good measure, in five starts against the NL East his ERA is at 0.98.
The Dodgers gave Kershaw six runs of support which gave the perfect opportunity for manager Don Mattingly to see what Brian Wilson had. Wilson's fastball, coming off of his second Tommy John surgery last year, was clocked as high as 94 mph. Sure he gave up a pinch-hit double to Greg Dobbs, but he also struck out two to give the Dodgers a Major League leading 17th shutout.
On June 22 the Dodgers were 31-42 and 9 1/2 games back in the division. On August 22, the Dodgers are 75-52 up 9 1/2 games in the division. In two calendar months that's a 44-10 record with a 19-game swing in the division for the arithmetically challenged.
The Dodgers will face a test this weekend with the AL East leading Boston Red Sox coming to town. Then again, I thought the same thing when the Tampa Bay Rays came to town earlier in the month.