Clayton Kershaw was six outs away from his first career perfect game but unbeknownst to those watching, he and Los Angeles Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had already decided history would not be made.
When speaking with reporters after the Dodgers’ sweep of the Minnesota Twins, Roberts revealed Kershaw had said he just wanted to reach 80 or 85 pitches in his 2022 season debut. Kershaw also explained pursuing a perfect game would have been an individual goal and he is more focused on the Dodgers trying to win another World Series.
Nevertheless the decision sparked plenty of debate and also put Roberts into a category of his own with respect to MLB history. He’s the only manager to ever remove twice remove a pitcher after seven innings of a perfect game, having previously done so with Rich Hill in 2016.
One day later, both Kershaw and Roberts stood by their course of action.
“Felt like we made the right choice in the moment, and obviously you wake up the next morning and think, ‘What if?’,” Kershaw said prior to the Dodgers’ home opener. “But at the end of the day, in the moment, it felt like the right decision. Can’t go back now.
“It’s a special thing. I don’t take them for granted. I understand the history of the game and understand there’s only been 20-something in history. I get that. But I said it the other day, the individual stuff is not why I continue to play the game. I want to win, so that supersedes anything.”
Kershaw did allow he was disappointed to not have accomplished the feat for fans. “If I was bringing my son to the game and there’s a perfect game going on, that’s why you come to the game,” he said.
“To see something special. From a fan’s perspective, I get it. It’s tough to swallow. Hopefully when we’re winning the World Series in October it’ll mean something.”
When Kershaw began to think about perfect game
Having previously thrown a no-hitter, Kershaw is familiar with the inevitable feeling that eventually starts to set in amid progress toward history. For the three-time Cy Young Award winner, that briefly came once Gavin Lux made a spectacular play to end the seventh inning.
“When Luxy made that play it was starting to feel a little more real,” Kershaw said. “I also knew my time was running out too.”
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