A month after my 21st birthday, I was about halfway through the first semester of my senior year in college in Boston, back in 2002. I lived in a two-room apartment with a classmate. I watched cartoons. I ate Hungry Man dinners, because they were cheap. I drank cheap beer, because it was cheap, and I tried my best to pretend I was paying attention to my classes. Which I wasn’t.
I did plenty of other things as well, which don’t need to be mentioned in this space, but one thing I did not do? Put together one of the most dominating pitching performances in the majors so far this season. Let me put it this way – I wasn’t even putting up the kind of numbers on PlayStation baseball that Kershaw did tonight. 13 strikeouts against just 1 hit over 7 innings is fantastic, but almost as impressive is that he allowed just 1 walk. Really, all you needed to do was hear Vin Scully laughing in awe at his Bugs Bunny curveball, because you figure that Vin’s seen it all by this point – so when you’re getting his attention, you know you’re doing something right.
This wasn’t one of those “it was just okay, but for his age it was great!” games. This was a dominant effort, no matter who you are – to the point that Vin even mentioned Sandy Koufax when running down his list of K’s. When we’re watching Kershaw prepare for his Pepsi Hall of Fame (presented by Carl’s Jr.!) speech in 2032, this is going to be one of the games they point back to as when you just knew the kid was going to be something special.
Of course, this wasn’t all roses and kittens, because the Dodgers blew the win for Kershaw. You can blame much of that on the offense for not blowing away Matt Cain when they had the chance in the early innings, and you can also thank Hong-Chih Kuo and Ronald Belisario for blowing the lead almost immediately upon replacing Kershaw. I wasn’t kidding in the title to this post – wins are completely and totally useless in measuring pitchers, and while the sabermetric community is well aware of that, too many casual fans haven’t quite figured it out yet.
Even better, of course, the Dodgers did up saving the game at the end, by tying it up in the 8th and pulling it out in the 9th; a win’s a win, regardless of whether the “W” goes to Kershaw or Jonathan Broxton. And hey, that’s four in a row! But you know what? It’s not often we say this, but winning one game just seemed secondary to watching the next big thing really make his mark.
So after two fantastic starts by Billingsley and Kershaw, hey, no pressure tonight, Eric Stults. Right?