Clayton Kershaw continued to cement his place as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the Los Angeles Dodgers franchise, and perhaps all of Major League Baseball, on Tuesday. Not only did he improve to 10-0 in the regular season against the New York Mets, he also moved into 44th place on the all-time strikeouts leaderboard.
Kershaw’s five strikeouts against the Mets gave him 2,451 on his career, passing former New York Yankees and Houston Astros pitcher Andy Pettitte, who finished with 2,448.
Pettitte became one of the faces of the late 1990s Yankees dynasty and a member of the “Core Four” along with Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera and Jorge Posada that helped carry the Yankees across two decades of success. He was also a key figure in the 2005 Astros’ run to their first World Series appearance in franchise history.
While Pettite dominated, another left-handed Texas native was taking notice. That made it all the more special for Kershaw when he found out he surpassed one of his favorite players growing up on the all-time strikeouts list, per SportsNet LA:
“I didn’t know that, that’s cool. Andy, I got to pitch against him and play against him, he was, like, my favorite guy growing up. So that’s cool.”
Their careers overlapped between Kershaw’s MLB debut in 2008 and Pettite’s retirement after the 2013 season. Though, Pettite spent 2011 in retirement before coming back to pitch two more years.
They faced off once in 2010 at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw actually outdueled his childhood hero with just four hits and two runs allowed over seven innings, but the Dodgers bullpen blew a 6-2 lead in the ninth inning and eventually lost 8-6 in extras.
Now, Kershaw has bested Pettitte once again by taking only 12 seasons to pass the strikeout total that Pettitte compiled over his entire 18-year career.
Kershaw’s next targets on the strikeout leaderboard include Minnesota Twins legend Jim Kaat, Hall-of-Famer Jack Morris and fellow Dodgers franchise pillar Don Drysdale.
Once Kershaw passes Drysdale’s 2,486 career strikeouts, he will move into second place among all-time strikeout leaders in Dodgers history. Only Don Sutton, with 2,696 strikeouts, will be ahead of Kershaw.
Both Drysdale and Sutton are Hall-of-Famers with their retired numbers hanging off the stands just inside the left field foul pole at Dodger Stadium. Kershaw remains on track to one day receive those same honors from both the Dodgers and baseball at large.