Having already clinched the National League West title as well as home-field advantage against the New York Mets in the NL Division Series, Sunday’s game between the San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers carried little importance.
However, the game did have some significance for Clayton Kershaw. The reigning NL MVP and three-time Cy Young-award winner took the mound only six punchouts shy of reaching 300 strikeouts for the season.
Kershaw looked to become the 34th pitcher in MLB history to accomplish the feat and just the third since 2000. The left-hander faced an additional hurdle as Dodgers manager Don Mattingly stated his ace would be on a pitch count in the meaningless game.
No matter, Kershaw reached 300 strikeouts in the third inning by getting Melvin Upton Jr. to swing and miss on one of his trademark curveballs. He then added one more strikeout in the fourth before calling it a day.
“Yeah, it was cool. The fans knew what was going on, so anytime that somebody recognizes an accomplishment, it’s a good feeling for sure,” Kershaw said of hitting the benchmark.
“It’s definitely a cool thing. Something that’s not the most important thing in the world, but definitely something looking back when your career is said and done, you get to say, ‘I did that once.’ Pretty cool.”
Next up for Kershaw is a presumed start in Game 1 of the NLDS, opposite Mets’ right-hander Jacob deGrom. Kershaw went 1-0 with a 0.56 ERA and 0.63 WHIP in two starts against New York this season. He threw a combined 16 innings over the two outings, and had 18 strikeouts to just two walks.