We are young
So let’s set the world on fire
We can burn brighter than the sun”
It’s still cold and dark and not baseball season yet. Not much news from the Dodgers about a second baseman or an eighth inning guy, either. So while we wait for warmth and sunshine and baseball to come back, let’s take a look back at Clayton Kershaw‘s five greatest games.
5.) May 19, 2006 — One of his best games was before he even reached the Major Leagues. In 2006, while Clayton was still in high school, he pitched in a playoff game against Northwest High School from Justin, Texas. Kershaw pitched an all strikeout, five-inning perfect game. After striking out the first 15 batters in a row, the game was shortened due to the mercy rule. Whenever I think about this game, I can’t help thinking about a bunch of demoralized high school boys walking away after not being able to do anything.
4.) May 9, 2010 — 2010 did not start well for Kershaw. April saw him post a 3.07 ERA, and his walks were high. His first game in May was the worst of his career. Facing the Milwaukee Brewers, he only made it through 1-1/3 innings before being pulled, throwing 57 pitches. The next game, however, was a complete 180. He only allowed two hits in eight innings, and beat the previously undefeated Ubaldo Jimenez. Both hits were infield singles, and he struck out nine. His ability, even at age 22, to rebound in such a fantastic way makes this a top game for me.
3.) March 31, 2013 — Opening Day of the 2013 season saw the Dodgers home against the San Francisco Giants. Clayton had already pitched eight shutout innings when he came up to bat in the bottom of the same frame. Facing George Kontos, he belted the first pitch over the center field wall. Said Vin Scully, “Clayton Kershaw has just hit his first home run, and knocked Los Angeles on its ear!” Jon Miller, on the Giants call, said “Clayton Kershaw is truly having a day where he is doing it all! He has dominated the Giants, eight shut out innings, and now he’s driven in the only run”. The best is when Kershaw helps with the bat as well as the arm. I had a debate between this one, and the September 23, 2014 game against the Giants where he had the behind the back grab, and his first triple. Can’t go wrong with either, but being Opening Day, a shutout, and his first home run, I had to go with this one.
2.) Oct 13, 2016 — This one is so fresh in our minds, and will long go down as a favorite game of Dodger fans. Game 5 of the NLDS saw the Dodgers facing the Washington Nationals in D.C. The postseason narrative on Kershaw is a tired one, with some only pointing to his failings and never focusing on things he has successfully done. In this series, the Dodgers were 3-0 when he pitched, and 0-2 when he didn’t. Before the game, manager Dave Roberts said there was no way Kershaw was pitching. He had just thrown 110 pitches the game before, and those pitches were on short rest. But Clayton had other ideas. He saw that Kenley Jansen, who had entered the game in the seventh inning, was getting tired. So he convinced his skipper and trainers that he was good to go and went to the bullpen. Roberts brought him in in the bottom of the ninth, with a one run lead, two runners on, and Dodger killer Daniel Murphy at the plate. He got Murphy to pop up, and struck out Wilmer Difo for the win. Willing to put it all on the line, and the team on his back.
1.) June 18, 2014 — Every game that Kershaw gets into the fourth or fifth inning with no hits, it’s not inconceivable to think he could take it all the way. On this day, he finally did. And in Clayton Kershaw fashion, while it wasn’t technically a perfect game, it was the most perfect no-hitter ever thrown. Having started the season with a back injury in early April, Clayton was hitting his stride by June. Facing the Colorado Rockies on the 18th, he was downright dominate. He stuck out 15 batters, issued no walks, and only needed 107 pitches. The only flaw in the game was manager Don Mattingly not replacing Hanley Ramirez at shortstop sooner — Hanley made an error on a weak grounder, and there went the perfect game. But Kershaw finished it anyway, needing only six pitches in the final inning, ending the game with his fists high in the air after striking out the 27th batter, jumping into A.J. Ellis‘s arms and mobbed by his teammates.
As with any top pitcher, there are plenty of highlights to choose from. These are the one that stick out the most to me. I believe there still is a perfect game in Kershaw’s future, or in the very least, another no-hitter. I’ve said it many times, but how lucky are we to have this guy on our team.