The number most people are going to see next to Clayton Kershaw‘s name tonight is “12″, the number of strikeouts he had. Me? I’m far more interested in seeing that nice round “0″ next to walks, because we’ve always known he was going to strike people out. The only thing that was going to hold him back from becoming a superduperstar was the wildness, because not only would the troublesome walks allow more men to reach base (obviously), they’d inflate his pitch count to the point where he struggled to get out of the 6th inning.
Tonight? No such worries, since we saw one of the best outings of his young career – 8 innings, 12 K, 0 BB, and while he did give up a two-run solo homer to Alfonso Soriano, that ball was hit so hard that it was almost enjoyable to watch.
Going back to his last start, Kershaw has now struck out seventeen batters since last walking anyone, and this makes two of his last three starts where he didn’t allow a single free pass. In fact, only twice in his last thirteen outings has he allowed more than three walks. Pairing that with the strikeouts, this is the 17th time in Dodger history where a starter has had 12 or more whiffs without allowing a walk. Chad Billingsley did it in 2008, and Brad Penny in 2007; before that, it hadn’t happened since Kevin Gross in 1992.
It’s clear here that what we’re seeing here is exactly what we’d all hoped would happen – the maturation of a talented young pitcher into the ace (hate that word, but it fits) that this club needs. The sad part? People are only going to notice because his 9-4 record is starting to look sparkly.
Rafael Furcal. What can you say? I mean… holy Jebus. That’s three more hits, including the go-ahead homer, for a man who might just be on the hottest hot streak I can ever remember (non-Manny-in-2008 division). I had written part of an appreciation for him earlier this week, then shelved it when Jon at Dodger Thoughts posted basically the same thing. At this point, screw it – the man deserves all the love we can give him, so it’s coming back soon. As you’ll see, I’m not exaggerating when I say we’re witnessing some of the best shortstop play in the entire history of the franchise. ****** Fun fact: neither Kershaw nor Furcal are All-Stars. And you wonder why I consider the entire thing a joke.
Just a slight quibble with Joe Torre tonight. Kershaw, as I noted, made just 97 pitches and struck out four of the last six men he faced. The bullpen is under even more stress than usual with Ronald Belisario still MIA, and indeed the only two men Torre trusts – Jonathan Broxton and Hong-Chih Kuo – each warmed up. Why not just let Kershaw start the 9th in pursuit of his first complete game? He was obviously not tired or beginning to struggle, and any game in which you don’t need to use Broxton or Kuo is a plus. Kershaw deserved at least the opportunity to get out there for the 9th, even if you pull him as soon as anyone reached base. You’re never going to get him in the mindset that he should try to go nine, if you never even let him try.