You’ve got to love the “win” stat. Tonight was a reminder of how meaningless decisions can be when evaluating performance.
I keep a mental note in my head whenever Clayton Kershaw takes the mound that a no-hitter just may be on the menu. He’s one of two or three pitchers in the game that I see as guys that could toss a no-no on any given night at any ballpark in the country. Yes, even at Coors Field.
Tonight was one of those nights again and I’m still waiting for that first historic game from the Dodger left hander. Maybe it’ll happen when I stop looking for it. Kershaw is just so dominating and a joy to watch. You seldom see such skill out there on the mound. Tonight, Kershaw retired the first ten hitters he faced before Dexter Fowler lined a single up the middle for the first Rockie hit. After that, he was still affective and looking good, just not his overpowering awesome self that he usually is.
Kershaw is such a perfectionist, I expect to witness that no-hitter at some time in the near future. On the other hand, Clayton is always looking for weaknesses in his game in which to improve. Who would have thought that he would identify his offense as an area of his game to make right.
Realizing that improving his hitting might make the difference in two or three games this season, Kershaw made an extra effort to take extra batting practice and work on his hitting during the off-season. The batting cage was his focus of his winter training regimen. The results of that extra work have directly affected the outcome of two of Kershaw’s wins so far. Tonight would have been win number three, but Brandon League saw to it that the decision wouldn’t belong to Clayton.
|Kershaw drives in two runs with a fourth inning double (photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)|
“He just got tired of being a bad hitter,” joked battery-mate A.J. Ellis to ESPN.com’s Jonah Keri when talking of Kershaw’s hitting prowess a few weeks back. He also realized that by being a better hitter, Manager Don Mattingly might think twice about pinch hitting for him in late inning games that are close.
Such was the case on opening day in a 0-0 tie in the 8th inning against the Giants. What resulted was a Kershaw homer and start of an offensive rally that led to a 4-0 Dodger win. Eventually it turned out to be Clayton’s first shutout of the season.
Conversly, Kershaw’s improved hitting also proved to be his undoing last Sunday against the Cardinals when Mattingly let him swing away with the bases loaded in the 6th inning, resulting in an inning ending/rally killing double play.
Tonight, Kershaw drove in two runs while lacing a double to deep left field, an offensive spurt to the Dodgers 2-run fourth inning. It was a key moment as it lifted the Dodgers to a 5-0 lead. In the sixth inning he placed a single over Troy Tulowitski’s outstretched glove to raise his average to .250 on the year. Kershaw has actually pinch hit twice this year when the Dodgers have run short of position players. He’s arguably the best hitting pitcher on the squad, though some would argue that Hyun Jin Ryu would give him a run for his money.
|Juan Uribe is all smiles after scoring in the third inning of tonight's action. (photo by Barry Gutierrez/AP)|
So, tonight’s 7-5 Dodger win turned out to be a blown save victory for Brandon League. Too bad the decision went in the direction in which it did. We can’t complain about getting the “W” though. Who would have figured that Luis Cruz and Juan Uribe would be the offensive heroes in the 10th inning. Good for them. A Padre loss moves the Dodgers out of the cellar, (San Diego is currently deadlocked in a 3-3 tie at home against Toronto in the 7th inning). That would be a great start to this Colorado series.