What’s wrong with Clayton Kershaw?
It’s what many asked as the reigning National League MVP wasn’t quite living up to the astronomical standard he set last season by not only winning an MVP Award, but a third Cy Young in the last four years.
However, when looking beyond traditional statistics, it became obvious nothing was truly wrong with Kershaw. Ten days removed from striking out 13 in a complete-game shutout, the left-hander unleashed his curveball, slider and fastball at will to set a new season-high with 14 strikeouts.
Among those unable to solve Kershaw on the day was Bryce Harper, who went 0-for-3 with three strikeouts in their head-to-head matchups. An MVP candidate himself, Harper spoke highly of Kershaw after the game, via Jacob Emert and Bill Ladson of MLB.com:
He went out there like the MVP that he is,” Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper said about Kershaw. “He was pretty devastating. We tried to go in there and did what we could. I think he is the best pitcher in baseball. He is pretty tough.”
Entering Saturday’s game Harper was a lifetime 1-for-6 against Kershaw with one home run and three strikeouts. The Los Angeles Dodgers ace was certainly aware of the threat the dynamic outfielder poses and was focused on not allowing him to reach base:
He’s the guy in their lineup, obviously,” Kershaw said about Harper. “You saw it out there in the ninth inning. It takes one swing for him. I was just trying not to give up a hit.”
Harper’s first-inning at-bat ended with him fooled on a curveball low and away. He wasn’t able to check his swing and went down on another curve, this time bounced in the dirt in the fourth inning, and couldn’t catch up to fastball in the sixth.
Harper’s lone hit was a two-run home run in the ninth off Kenley Jansen that cut the Nationals’ deficit to 4-2, which finished as the final score of the game. Already leading the Majors in strikeouts heading into his 19th start of the season, Kershaw struck out at least two batters in each of the first seven innings.
The Nationals fared only slightly better in the eighth with all three batters being retired on groundouts. According to ESPN Stats and Info, Kershaw is the first pitcher in 100 years to post consecutive starts with at least 10 strikeouts, zero runs allowed and zero walks issued.
Dating back to May 26 when he threw seven scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves, Kershaw owns a 1.36 ERA, 0.78 WHIP and 101 strikeouts over 10 starts — pitching 71.2 innings — good for 12.5 strikeouts per nine innings. In three July starts Kershaw has allowed just one run in 24 innings (0.42 ERA), struck out 34 and issued only two walks.