Los Angeles Dodgers left-hander Clayton Kershaw took a little longer than usual rounding into form this season after hitting the disabled list with a back ailment in early April. No need to worry now, though. Kershaw is back on track and he's officially in the history books after pitching the first no-hitter in his already illustrious career in the Dodgers' 8-0 victory against the Colorado Rockies.
For all intents and purpose, Kershaw was perfect on Wednesday night. Only a Hanley Ramirez throwing error on Chris Dickerson's weak bouncer leading off the seventh inning separated him from becoming the 24th pitcher in MLB history to throw a perfect game. Making it all the more painful, it's a play that most shortstops make. Unfortunately, Ramirez isn't the shortstop he once was, and he's also dealing with a contusion on his throwing hand that may have affected his grip and throw.
It just goes to show how difficult pitching a perfect game is, and even how difficult managing such an effort can be. Don't think Dodgers skipper Don Mattingly isn't questioning why he didn't upgrade his defense just one inning sooner with his team holding a comfortable eight-run lead. Such a change could have made all the difference for Kershaw.
Instead, Mattingly waited until after the seventh inning to insert Carlos Triunfel at shortstop. It was too late to save perfection, but gave Los Angeles its best defense for the final six outs of the no-hitter.
Technically, we can't say Kershaw was perfect. However, there were a few other adjectives that applied on Wednesday night: efficient, filthy and dominant would be chief among them. In keeping the Rockies out of the hit column, Kershaw needed only 107 pitches. He also set a new career high with 15 strikeouts. Basically, when the Rockies weren't whiffing or window-shopping as his next pitch crossed the plate, they were swinging only on the outside chance they would make solid contact.
Kershaw had every pitch in his arsenal at his disposal. He relied mostly on his electric fastball early in counts, and then turned to his slider and an especially effective curveball to apply the finishing touches. The Rockies knew the patterns. They knew how Kershaw was setting them up and what should be coming next but still couldn't lay off. To say they had no chance would not be far-fetched. Kershaw was just that locked in all night long, and as a result the Rockies' offense remained locked out.
Really, all you need to know about Kershaw's performance is that those Dodgers fans who usually head for the exits by the seventh inning were sticking around on Wednesday. They felt history coming early and they wanted to be a part of it.
A few other notable items:
• It's the 284th no-hitter in MLB history and the 22nd no-hitter in Dodgers history. In fact, they own both of MLB's no-hitters this season. Josh Beckett pitched the other one against the Philadelphia Phillies on May 25 at Citizens Bank Park.
• Prior to Beckett, the Dodgers' last no-hitter was thrown by Hideo Nomo on Sept. 17, 1996, against the Rockies at Coors Field.
• A.J. Ellis was the catcher for Kershaw's no-hitter. He recently came off the disabled list after spraining his ankle celebrating Josh Beckett's no-hitter. He stepped on the mask of Drew Butera, who started behind the plate on that day.
• The last time the Dodgers had two no-hitters in the same season was season was 1956. Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie were the pitchers.
• Vin Scully reportedly called his 19th no-hitter on Wednesday. He's also called three perfect games.
• Kershaw's previous longest bid for a no-hitter was seven innings on May 17, 2009, against the then Florida Marlins.
Kershaw got over the hump on Wednesday. One no-hitter down for the two-time Cy Young Award winner. Who knows how many left to come. He's only 26 after all, and after watching him on Wednesday it feels like he's only just getting started.
[Editor's note: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said Scully had called nine no-hitters.]
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