Heading into Thursday’s game with the New York Mets, Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts conceded Clayton Kershaw’s starts have a ‘must win’ feeling.
“Those are games you have to win,” Roberts said. The Dodgers made it easy on Kershaw, scoring four runs on Bartolo Colon in the first inning, and leading 5-0 after two. The offense went quiet after that point, but Kershaw more than took care of matters on the mound.
He proceeded to throw a second consecutive complete-game shutout at Dodger Stadium, amassing 13 strikeouts in the process, and holding the Mets to just three hits. One of their hits was a two-out single in the ninth, which was a wash as Kershaw struck out the side in the final frame.
“That’s always the goal — to shake the catcher’s hands. It feels good. You can’t really do any more than go nine innings, so when you do it, it’s a good feeling,” Kershaw said. The performance certainly was not lost on manager Dave Roberts.
“Clayton was Clayton. He’s a beast. He’s completely dominant,” he said. “I don’t think there are enough adjectives to describe what he does for our ballclub.”
Kershaw set a Dodgers franchise record with a fifth consecutive start with 10 or more strikeouts. Pedro Martinez (1999) and Chris Sale (2015) hold the Major League Baseball record with eight such starts.
Kershaw historically has been among the leaders in strikeout-to-walk ratio. However, his 77 strikeouts to just four walks this season is an obscene ratio. And one Kershaw doesn’t necessarily know what to attribute to.
“I’m definitely not being smarter,” joked Kershaw when asked if improved command or being smarter is the reason. “I don’t know how to explain it other than walking guys is how you get in trouble. I’d rather them string hits together and make them swing the bats to beat me. That’s just my mentality. You want them to beat you.”
Already regarded as one of, if not the best pitcher in baseball, Kershaw has furthered his staked his claim to throne through eight starts this season. He’s 5-1 with a 1.74 ERA, 1.48 FIP, 0.73 WHIP, and is averaging 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings.
Thursday’s shutout was the 14th of Kershaw’s career, which now leads all active pitchers. In addition, he improved to 81-0 lifetime when given at least a four-run lead. “I didn’t know that. If we don’t have enough incentive to get four runs when he pitches, there you have it,” Roberts said.
“It’s a credit to him. When you need a shutout and to save the bullpen, he does that. If you give him a lead he smells the finish line and smells blood.”