For as much as Clatyon Kershaw may have struggled through his first nine starts, if there’s one accusation that can’t be levied against him it’s an inability to rack up strikeouts. The reigning National League MVP has led the Majors in punch-outs for much of the season and put hitters away at a prolific rate on Saturday in a Los Angeles Dodgers win over the Washington Nationals.
Kershaw struck out two batters through the first seven innings, finishing with 14 strikeouts — setting a new season high. According to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register, A.J. Ellis believed the outing was comparable to Kershaw’s no-hitter:
That’s probably as close as I can remember his stuff being to his no-hitter day back last June,” Dodgers catcher A.J. Ellis said. “Both breaking balls were so dominant. Any time I asked for them on demand they were going to be executed and located extremely well. When he got two strikes on guys, the way both breaking balls were working, it was either weapon based on how he’d pitched them earlier in the at-bat or earlier in the game. You’re just trying to make the right choice and about the fourth or fifth inning you realize there is no bad choice.”
Echoing Ellis’ remarks, Kershaw tied his success to being able to effectively throw three pitches, via Time Warner Cable’s SportsNet LA:
I think more than anything, I was just able to throw three pitches. I threw probably the best slider I’ve had all year. I’ve had good ones here and there, but I felt really consistent with it today. I felt like I could throw it how I wanted every single time.”
The win improved Kershaw’s mark to 7-6 and, lowered his ERA to 2.68 and WHIP to 0.98. Entering play Sunday, he led the Majors with 174 strikeouts, 15 more than second-place Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians.
Additionally, Kershaw ranks third overall with a 2.21 FIP, and first in the Majors with a 1.94 xFIP and 12 strikeouts per nine innings. His next scheduled start is Thursday when the Dodgers face the New York Mets in the seventh of their current 10-game road trip.