Kershaw’s Streak Ends at 41, But He Still Pitched a Gem

In 1968, Dodgers’ great Don Drysdale, who a year earlier became the unquestioned ace of the Dodgers’ pitching staff with the retirement of Sandy Koufax, pitched an astonishing 58 consecutive scoreless innings, only to have another Dodgers’ pitcher, Orel Hershiser, break the record 20 years later, by a single inning. Now, 26 years after that accomplishment, Clayton Kershaw, making his mark as perhaps baseball’s best since Koufax, came into tonight’s game with his own streak of 36 consecutive scoreless innings, and he was to extend that to 41 before Chase Headley hit a fifth-inning home run to end the streak. Nevertheless, Kershaw pitched a complete game three-hitter, giving up no additional runs and striking out eleven, on the way to his eleventh win of the season despite having spent five weeks of the season on the disabled list.

After weathering the ill-fated trip to Australia, and then suffering a back injury, Kershaw has now lowered his ERA to 1.78 and his WHIP to 0.83. Opposing hitters are batting a robust .191 against him. He has also now won his last eight consecutive starts. Since pitching what was most likely the worst game of his career, an 18-7 loss in which he gave up seven earned runs in six innings, Kershaw has pitched 74 innings, striking out 98 and allowing eight earned runs, for an ERA of 0.97.
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As dominant as Kershaw has been, now a front runner for his fourth National League ERA title, and having already won two Cy Young Awards, with a third a distinct possibility after this season, any comparisons with Sandy Koufax, as some local commentators have recently been making, fall way short. These would-be experts never saw Koufax pitch, and are not familiar with, or choose to ignore, the amazing statistics he compiled, and the indescribable aura that engulfed him when he took the mound.
When Sandy pitched, fans came to the game thinking they would see a no-hitter, and if now, at lease a shutout, and a dozen or more strikeouts. They were seldom disappointed.

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I saw Sandy pitch on dozens of occasions, and the two most memorable games I ever saw him pitch were his perfect game on September 9, 1965, and six years earlier, a loss, a 1-0 loss to the Chicago White Sox and Bob Shaw, in the fifth game of the 1959 World Series, played before a crowd of 92,706 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, where the only run of the game scored on a double play.

Kershaw has put up some great stats himself, striking out more than 200 batters in a season four times, with a career high of 248 in 2011. Tonight’s game was his 14th career complete game, and his has pitched eight career complete game shutouts. Well, Koufax, recorded 15 or more complete games in EACH of five different seasons, and had as many as 11 complete game shutouts in one season. He struck out over 300 batters in three different seasons, setting a major league record 382 batters in 1965. His WHIP was under 1.0 in each of his last four seasons, and his ERA over those four seasons and 1,192.2 innings pitched, was 1.86. Kershaw has now pitched 1,276.1 innings lifetime, with an ERA of 2.54.

I do believe that Kershaw is not just the best there is today, by far, but quite likely the best since Koufax, but better than Sandy? No way.

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