LOS ANGELES -- Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw struck out seven in his seven innings on Friday night in the Dodgers' loss to the Mets, ending the first half of his season with no wins in his last five starts despite allowing only 12 runs during that span. .
Kershaw got a no-decision but lowered his ERA to 3.08, the lowest it has been after a game this season.
Kershaw also lasted exactly seven innings for a third consecutive start, and at least seven innings for the seventh time in his last nine starts.
"I'd like to go eight or nine, but it's better than six. Seven is kind of the low benchmark for me," Kershaw said. "Eight is what you're really pushing for as a starter. It just makes everything work better, giving most of the bullpen the night off."
On the season, Kershaw is averaging 6.70 innings per start, down from 7.35 last year and 7.15 in 2013.
Kershaw with his seven strikeouts on Friday now leads the major leagues with 147 strikeouts, six more than both Corey Kluber and Chris Sale, and eight more than Max Scherzer.
Friday was the 81st game of the year for the Dodgers, the true halfway point of the season.
If we simply double Kershaw's strikeout total, that would give him 294 on the season, which would shatter his career high of 248 in 2011. No Dodger has struck out even 250 batters in a season since Sandy Koufax fanned 317 in his final season in 1966.
The 147 strikeouts by Kershaw through 81 team games is the fourth-most by a Dodger, behind three different Koufax seasons. Koufax also struck out 146 through 81 games in a fourth season (1963).
Fernando Valenzuela had 144 strikeouts as a rookie through 81 team games in 1981, but that was a fractured, strike-shortened campaign that saw him end with 180 on the season.
On Monday the National League All-Star pitchers and reserves will be announced, so this was Kershaw's final audition if you will for the midsummer classic.
Will Kershaw's 5-6 record keep him out, or will his high strikeout total and strong peripherals (second in NL with 2.55 FIP, first with 2.13 xFIP despite 17th in ERA) lead the decision?
Or will the star portion of All-Star give Kershaw extra credit that he may or may not need?
Since post All-Star-break numbers are hardly even mentioned in such considerations, I will point out that Kershaw since the 2014 All-Star break is 15-7 with a 2.35 ERA in 30 starts, with 260 strikeouts and 45 walks in 226 innings.
Sounds like an All-Star to me.
Zack Greinke takes his 20⅔ consecutive scoreless innings into Saturday afternoon's game, a 4:15 p.m. PT contest on Fox. The Mets will go with Matt Harvey in the middle game of the series.