Even in his 15th season, Clayton Kershaw continues to remind us that he’s still one of the best starters in the game.
On Monday night, the 34-year-old allowed one run in six innings. He struck out 10 and issued zero walks. It’s the third time this season Kershaw has struck out at least 10 while walking zero. For the veteran, it was the 27th time he’s done that in his career, tying him with Curt Schilling for the third most in baseball history.
“I feel great,” Kershaw said to reporters following the game. “Physically feel great. I’m in a good spot.”
Monday night was Kershaw’s fourth start since coming off the IL, his second stint of the season. After missing a month, the future Hall-of-Famer hasn’t missed a beat.
Over his last four starts, Kershaw has posted a 1.50 ERA, 1.74 FIP, 0.75 WHIP and .163 AVG. In his 24 innings of work, he’s struck out 29 while issuing only four walks. For 90 percent of starters in baseball, that would be the best four-game stretch of their career. For Kershaw, it’s just another two weeks in his game log.
Kershaw started his night off to near perfection. He retired the side in order on only 11 pitches, striking out two.
“Any time you get out of the first without giving up a run it’s good,” Kershaw said to reporters. “Trying to calm yourself in the first inning at home is always a challenge for me. Any time you get the first three batters out is a good thing.”
Manager Dave Roberts said following the game that Kershaw set the tone for the evening with his quick first inning.
“The way he attacked, that first inning was different,” Roberts said to the media. “Overall, how he managed the strike zone. Just really fun to watch tonight.”
This was Kershaw’s second straight start facing Arizona. Last week in Phoenix, he tossed seven shutout innings with five strikeouts and a walk. Although the DBacks are going to finish the season well below .500, facing a team in back-to-back starts isn’t an easy task, regardless of how good they are.
“Facing the DBacks for the second time in as many starts, it’s not an easy thing to do,” Kershaw said to the media. “You don’t want to overthink too much. I don’t have too many tricks up my sleeve. You don’t want to be too predictable.”
Kershaw’s biggest test of the game came with one out in the fourth inning. Christian Walker, who has hit Kershaw well over the years was in the box. In 29 plate appearances, Walker owns a 1.025 OPS with four homers against the lefty. On Monday night, he went blow-to-blow with the Hall-of-Famer.
Walker worked the count full. He then proceeded to foul off six straight pitches. After nothing but sliders and fastballs, Kershaw decided to fool him with the curveball. It paid off, as he got Walker to swing and miss.
“It was time to throw a curveball,” Kershaw said following the game. “I had thrown fastballs and sliders the whole at bat. Will [Smith] had actually called a curveball the pitch before, I shook him off and he fouled off another slider. It was time. Curveball is always ‘Can I throw it for a strike?’. Thankfully I threw it for a strike.”
Battling with a hitter can be draining on a pitcher. Kershaw acknowledged the at bat likely cost him another inning. Although ending the at bat with a strikeout was satisfying, Kershaw just wanted an out regardless. It didn’t matter how it came.
“I don’t care if he hit it a million miles an hour to the warning track, I just wanted an out there.”
It really is incredible to watch what Kershaw is doing in his 15th season. Like I mentioned earlier, he truly is still one of the best in the game.