Clayton Kershaw’s value to the Los Angeles Dodgers this season can’t be understated. While Kershaw is always quick to deflect attention and point to his success coming as part of what the team has accomplished, the ace of the pitching staff routinely carried the Dodgers on his shoulders.
That was particularly evident in Wednesday’s NL West-clinching win where Kershaw struck out 11 batters in eight innings, made a stop with his back turned to the ball and hit his first career triple that drove in a run and tied the game.
Multiple teammates have gone on record to voice their support for Kershaw’s case for MVP and A.J. Ellis also credited the lefty for the influence he has. According to Dylan Hernandez of the LA Times, Ellis said Kershaw inspires the Dodgers to match the bar he sets:
When Clayton pitches, everyone turns it up a notch, everyone goes just a little harder because everyone wants to live up to his standard,” catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Everyone is getting down and dirty and going hard all the time. People who don’t think a pitcher can be MVP don’t realize what kind of unifying force he is in our clubhouse.”
Kershaw took the mound 27 times this season and walked away with a win on 21 occasions. He suffered a loss in just three of his starts, and the Dodgers were 2-1 in the three games he received a no-decision.
The relationship between Ellis and Kershaw dates back to 2007 during their time with the Dodgers then Double-A affiliate, Jacksonville Suns. It was the only time the two were teammates in the Minor League ranks and they reconnected with the Dodgers the following year.
Kershaw won’t start another game until he’s on the mound for Game 1 of the NLDS at Dodger Stadium set for Oct. 3. As for Ellis, it wouldn’t come as a surprise should manager Don Mattingly opt to rest the catcher in one or two of the three remaining regular-season games.