COMMENTARY | In one of the most anticipated opening days for the Los Angeles Dodgers in recent memory, you could say Clayton Kershaw put on a show but that would be an insult -- he absolutely stole the show.
He showed people why the Dodgers will most likely make him the highest paid pitcher in Major League Baseball history. He spun devastating curve ball after devastating curve ball. He buckled left-handed hitters and froze right-handers. His best pitch truly was Public Enemy No. 1 to the San Francisco Giants on April 1. They simply could not hit it. The 1927 Yankees would have struggled against Kershaw. He was the best player on the field, and it wasn't even close. We've come to expect these outings from Kershaw, but what we didn't expect was his bat to be just as devastating as his curve ball.
Kershaw turned the normally slow game into more of a basketball-style pace, quickly sitting hitters down. In the seventh inning, Justin Sellers was the final out, leaving Kershaw standing on deck and leaving fans to wonder whether he'll get a chance to hit and finish what he had started or if his brilliance on the mound would be wasted.
Kershaw made quick work of the Giants in the eighth, and he grabbed his helmet and bat to lead off the Dodgers in their half of the inning. It spurred this exchange from my brother and I who were watching the game hoping to see Kershaw get a chance to hit.
Me: "What if Kershaw went yard right now?"
Him: "No way, but that would be awesome."
Me: "I would absolutely lose it if it happened."
Him: "Yeah, me too."
George Kontos, who relieved Matt Cain, then grooved a belt-high fastball and Kershaw crushed it to deep center. At first, silence fell over our living room then the camera panned out to center field and you could see Angel Pagan give the, "Oh crap this thing is hit really well" turn and run. Shouts of "Get out ball" and "Go. Go. Go," echoed off the walls in our living room.
Finally, the ball sailed over the fence. And we made good on our end and we lost it. It was one of those moments that you knew was a long shot, but it was in the back of everyone's mind. A moment so rare you're watching the game at home on television, yet you feel like you were celebrating at the park.
These moments are rare and the Dodgers haven't had many to enjoy over the past 10 years. The Steve Finley walkoff granny to win the NL West in 2004, the back-to-back-to-back-to-back homers to tie the game in the ninth inning in 2006, and any time Eric Gagne entered the game to "Welcome to the Jungle." All of those moments stand out in Dodgers fans minds, and this game will, too. Most will even claim to have been in attendance. The 2013 opening day game will instantly become an I Was There Game when people will tell you, "I've been to opening day before. Remember when Kershaw single-handedly beat the Giants? Yeah, I was there."
It was that great of a performance, and it was against a bitter rival no less. I can't really recall what happened after his home run. I was too busy trying to catch my breath, settle down my dogs and assure the neighbors that everything was okay. It didn't really matter. He had done what most of us thought wasn't possible or simply thought wasn't going to happen. He broke the tie after 7 1/2 scoreless innings. He hit a game-wining home run while completely shutting down the other team. The first pitcher to accomplish that feat since Don Drysdale did it in 1965. He had done it all in this game. He did single-handedly beat the Giants.
It's only one game in a long 162-game season, and he only pitches once every five days, but I'm really glad he's the ace for the Dodgers and Public Enemy No. 1 to the rest of the league.
Matt McFadden was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA he has been a Dodgers follower for the past 25 years. Follow him on twitter @Mr_Relevant.
- Sports & Recreation
- Clayton Kershaw
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- San Francisco Giants