It was only a matter of time.
Clayton Kershaw, winner of two of the past three Cy Young Awards, created a masterpiece on the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers while throwing a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in dominating fashion. The left-hander struck out 15 Rockies and walked none, missing out on a perfect game only because of a throwing error made by Hanley Ramirez in the seventh.
Batter after batter was confounded by Kershaw, who was incredibly economical throughout his nine no-hit innings. Throwing 107 pitches, Kershaw challenged Colorado’s lineup over and over again, pounding the strikezone with a dazzling array of pitches.
Umpire Greg Gibson would say that Kershaw was “locked in,” as the Dodger ace threw 79 of his 107 pitches for strikes. As catcher A.J. Ellis noted, Kershaw had full command of his pitches, including a devastating slider and curveball that he used for finishing 14 of his 15 strikeouts. The hard-throwing lefty only went to his fastball once to finish a batter.
The jubilant Kershaw, having struck out the final batter of his evening, raised both of his arms high in celebration as he waited for his teammates to join in. Ellis was one of the first to the mound, and he made sure to drop his mask far from where the celebration would be before bear-hugging his friend and battery mate. And of course, one of the Dodgers brought out the bubble machine for what is becoming a hallmark of the 2014 Dodgers: the celebratory dance party.
The overriding theme of the comments made afterward demonstrate just how well-respected Kershaw is in the clubhouse and throughout all of baseball. Every comment seemed to mention how deserving he was of this moment, and even the opposing players seemed a bit awestruck by his performance, seemingly appreciating being witness to it. According to Troy Tulowitzki:
"When there's a special moment for someone, you want to watch how a guy responds. Clayton, I've always had a lot of respect for how hard he works. It's nice for me to see how much it means for him. If something can bring tears to someone's eyes, it means you really care, and he cares a lot about this game."
Kershaw’s Dodger teammates also spoke highly of him, and Ellis, of course, spoke glowingly of the performance:
"I started tearing up in the ninth. I just got emotional out there. I told him it's not fair to have a devastating slider and a devastating curve the same night. But when he does, this is possible. The guys in that lineup give him fits. The way he made them look is a testament to how good he was. I'm just thankful and blessed to be on the receiving end of the best pitcher in baseball."
Manager Don Mattingly discussed how deserving Kershaw is of every accolade, noting that it is impossible not to respect his work ethic and attitude, saying:
"The thing about it, all the guys sit and watch, and you listen to them and they'll say that nobody deserves this more than him. He works hard every day. He does everything right. He's a great teammate. The two Cy Youngs don't even get in the way. It's just so nice to watch someone like that get it."
On the season, Kershaw now possesses a record of 7-2 and an ERA of 2.52. Over his past six starts, Kershaw is 5-1 with an ERA of 1.50. During that time, he has also struck out 58 while walking only five over 42 innings pitched. It is safe to say that Kershaw is hitting his stride.
The exultant Kershaw expressed gratitude and appreciated the moment, saying:
“As far as individual games, this is pretty special. I'll remember this for the rest of my life. Get to do it at home, it's even better. It's amazing”
As for the Ramirez error that cost him the perfect game?
“Under normal circumstances, that’s pretty close to a hit. Dickerson’s pretty fast and Hanley did all he could. He made a good play and just the throw was a little wide. Nothing he could do with that. It was a tough play.”
For a pitcher of Kershaw’s ability and stature, it was clear long ago that this moment was coming. Having witnessed the utter domination of the Colorado lineup, it is hard to think that it will not happen again and again. The all-time Dodger leader in no-hitters and the pitcher to whom Kershaw is often compared – Sandy Koufax – has four of his own, including a perfect game. Kershaw has plenty of time to catch him, and perhaps the fact that Koufax accumulated all of his before the age of 30 will serve as motivation.
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