LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers return home beginning Wednesday night, hoping to turn the tables on the Rangers by throwing their best two pitchers in this two-game interleague series. Clayton Kershaw takes the mound in the opener at Dodger Stadium, almost exactly one year after making history.
On June 18, 2014, Kershaw struck out 15 and walked none in his no-hitter against the Rockies, and Wednesday marks day number 365 since his masterpiece.
Starting with the no-hitter, Kershaw is 20-4 with a 2.03 ERA in his last 31 starts, with 280 strikeouts in 230 innings.
There have only been six pitching seasons with even 250 strikeouts in Dodgers franchise history — four by Sandy Koufax, one each by Dazzy Vance and Don Drysdale — and none since Koufax struck out 317 batters in 1966.
This season, assuming the Dodgers continue to use off days for extra rest rather than to shuffle the starting rotation, Kershaw is on pace for 20 more starts. If he continues at his current rate (an absurd 8.61 strikeouts per start, slightly lower than his 8.85 mark in 2014), Kershaw would finish with 284 strikeouts this season.
Among Dodgers, only Koufax has reached that strikeout stratosphere.
Kershaw struck out a career-high 248 batters in 2011, and averaged 237 strikeouts per year from 2011-2014. He led the National League in strikeouts in 2011 and 2013, finished one behind the leader in 2012 and three behind in 2014.
With 112 strikeouts so far in 2015, Kershaw trails Max Scherzer of the Nationals by one.
With 88 more punchouts this season, Kershaw would join Koufax and Don Drysdale for most 200-strikeout seasons in Dodgers history with six, and would join Koufax as the only ones to do so six consecutive years.
Since making his major league debut on May 25, 2008, Kershaw's 1,557 strikeouts are one behind Felix Hernandez of the Mariners for the most in baseball during that span. Hernandez also starts Wednesday night, against the Giants in Seattle.
Kershaw has struck out 32.1 percent of batters faced this year, even higher than his 31.9-percent mark in 2014. Among Dodgers with at least 80 innings pitched in a season in the 132-year history of the franchise, the only higher strikeout rates were achieved by closer Eric Gagne in his sublime peak from 2002-2004.
Wednesday night is Kershaw's first career start — home or away — against the Rangers, the closest thing there is to his hometown team. Texas is one of five non-Dodgers teams Kershaw never faced, along with the Orioles, Red Sox, Twins, Blue Jays.
Wandy Rodriguez starts for the Rangers, the 11th time the Dodgers will have faced a left-handed starter this season. Six of those games will have been against Kershaw (the Dodgers are 2-3, with wins over the Rockies and Cardinals, and three losses in Madison Bumgarner starts).
Time: 7:10 p.m. PT
TV: SportsNet LA, MLB Network