When I said earlier today that Clayton Kershaw was going to do something worth watching simply because no one would be watching, I think I was right, just not in the way we expected. For the the first few innings, Kershaw didn’t look much like the elite ace we’ve come to know and love, and it’s almost like he chose this hidden game to get those struggles out of the way where few would notice.
Kershaw walked the leadoff hitter, Christian Yelich, then got into trouble in the second thanks to a single, wild pitch, and walk. In the third, he gave up a long double to Giancarlo Stanton; in the fourth, he let another leadoff man, Ed Lucas, get on base with a single. The leadoff Miami hitters in the sixth and seventh made it on, too, though he really seemed to be back to his old self after the first three innings.
But while it may not have been a classic Kershaw outing, it says a lot about him that on a day where he was probably not quite at his best, the Marlins still scored precisely zero runs. Two of those leadoff men were immediately erased on double plays, and Miami was unable to string any of those hits together enough to actually get on the board. Say what you will about the strength of the Marlins lineup, but the fact that Kershaw can spend several innings fighting himself and still throw eight shutout innings… well, it’s why he’s the best pitcher in baseball. It’s why he just might be the NL Most Valuable Player.
Meanwhile, we saw the inverse from Miami starter Henderson Alvarez. He didn’t allow his first hit until the fourth inning, but when he did, it all fell apart. Yasiel Puig led off the fourth with a double to the deepest part of the park, then (after Andre Ethier struck out) advanced to third on an A.J. Ellis groundout. Puig then looked to have scored the first run on a wild pitch, but was returned to third when it was ruled that the pitch had actually hit Skip Schumaker; it ended up not making a difference when Kershaw followed a Juan Uribe walk with a run-scoring single to bring in Uribe. Carl Crawford then doubled home two, and Alvarez was never the same.
Kershaw didn’t get the shutout, since he was lifted after eight innings and 103 pitches. (Some will complain about that, but with a six-run lead and hopefully a long postseason ahead, I have no problem about letting the bullpen eat that last inning.) Today’s performance kicks that ERA down to 1.72, and it can’t be overstated how impressive that is — since Jackie Robinson integrated the game in 1947, only seven pitcher seasons have had lower marks than that, and two of those (Bob Gibson & Luis Tiant) came in 1968, when pitching was so dominant that the mound was then lowered.
Brian Wilson made his Dodger debut in the ninth inning, touching 94 miles per hour in his first game action since April 2012. He struck out Stanton on a called slider, induced a ground out from Logan Morrison, allowed a double to Greg Dobbs, and struck out Justin Ruggiano swinging. It’s just one game in a low leverage situation against a downtrodden team, but he can take some good out of this.
Arizona lost to the Reds today, so the Dodgers take a 9.5 game lead back home to face off against Boston tomorrow. Should be fun.