Clayton Kershaw got Jonathan Villar swinging in the second inning to record his 2,000th career strikeout. Kershaw became the third-fastest pitcher (by innings) all-time to reach the milestone.
Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat in 1,715.1 innings pitched, while Randy Johnson needed 1,734 innings. Kershaw’s 1,837.2 is ahead of fourth-place Nolan Ryan, who didn’t reach 2,000 career strikeouts until his 1,874th inning of work in the Majors.
In terms of games pitched, only Johnson (262 games) bests Kershaw (277). Overall, he becomes the 79th pitcher in MLB history to reach a minimum of 2,000 career strikeouts.
Active pitchers on his heels include James Shields of the Chicago White Sox, at 1,993 strikeouts; and Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer who has 1,981 punchouts.
Chicago Cubs lefty Jon Lester (1,928) should also reach the 2,000-strikeouts benchmark this season. While Shields is knocking on the door, he last pitched in April and remains on the disabled list with a strained right lat.
Kershaw began the year at 1,918 strikeouts. Friday’s start in the Los Angeles Dodgers series opener against the Milwaukee Brewers is his 12th of the season.
The three-time Cy Young Award winner entered with just two double-digit strikeout games this season. Kershaw has posted a nine-strikeout game and recorded eight strikeouts in two other starts.
Because of a herniated disc, last season was his first time not reaching at least 200 strikeouts in a single season since 2009. Kershaw set a single-season record with 301 strikeouts in 2015.
He became the first pitcher to reach the milestone since Curt Schilling and Hall of Famer Randy Johnson both did so in 2002. Kershaw joined Sandy Koufax as the only Dodgers pitcher to tally 300 strikeouts in a season. Koufax accomplished the feat in 1963, 1965 and 1966.
Kershaw’s single-game career high is 15 strikeouts, which he set as part of a no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies in June 2014.