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Clayton Kershaw day by day: Near perfection

Kershaw pitched his no-hitter on June 18, and it’s not his only scoreless start on this date.

MLB: JUN 18 Rockies at Dodgers Photo by Chris Williams/Icon SMI/Corbis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

We’ve reached what is almost certainly the best date of Clayton Kershaw’s career. It’s not the most prolific, with only two starts, but June 18 has his best performance, his 2014 no-hitter against the Rockies. And that’s not even his only scoreless start on this date.

On June 18, 2014 the Dodgers were at home, and Kershaw was getting in the groove. He missed six weeks with an upper back injury, his first real missed time of his career, and had a disaster start in Arizona a month earlier, allowing seven runs while recording five outs. But he rebounded to allow only seven runs in his next five starts, heading into this one against the Rockies.

The Dodgers got two runs in the first inning, and little did they know that was all they needed. Kershaw retired the side in order in each of the first three innings, and in his first time through the lineup he struck out five.

Five more runs in the third inning put this game away, and Kershaw again retired Colorado in order in the fourth, fifth, and sixth innings, with five more strikeouts his second time through the order.

Corey Dickerson grounded to shortstop to open the seventh inning, and an errant throw by Hanley Ramirez gave the Rockies their first baserunner.

Kershaw’s perfect game was gone, but his no-hitter was intact, and he set Colorado down in order in the seventh, including two strikeouts, but he also got a little help.

Troy Tulowitzki had what was probably the closest thing to a hit all night, a grounder down the line deep behind third base. Miguel Rojas deftly fielded it and threw out Tulo, punctuated by stellar scoop at first base by Adrian Gonzalez.

That was really the only threat from the Rockies all night.

Kershaw struck out two more in the eighth, then got two first-pitch outs to open the ninth before whiffing Dickerson to end the game, Kershaw’s career-high 15th strikeout. That’s tied for the fourth-most strikeouts in a no-hitter in baseball history, trailing only Nolan Ryan and Max Scherzer.

From A.J. Ellis in my game recap:

“I think Clayton pitches to win so much that his main focus is winning the game. He attacks the strike zone, you see his walk total is so low this year. He’s inducing a lot of contact, and when you do that you’re going to have flares fall in, balls get through the hole,” Ellis said. “Once we got a little bit deeper in the game, those breaking balls were just so devastating, and the strikeouts kept mounting up, we knew there would be a chance.”

For a few years I had a running gag on Twitter, once in a while Kershaw would allow his first hit of a game I’d tweet something like “159 career starts, and Clayton Kershaw still doesn’t have a no-hitter.” But this night ended that.

This was the 22nd no-hitter in Dodgers history, and the second for LA in about a month, after Josh Beckett no-hit the Phillies in Philadelphia.

Kershaw didn’t start again on June 18 until last year, when he was home against the Giants. The only player to appear in both games was Kershaw.

The Giants went down in order in the first inning, and Kershaw walked a batter in the second. Later that inning his bid for a second June 18 no-hitter ended with a Kevin Pillar single, his 33rd batter faced on June 18. San Francisco barely threatened against Kershaw with three hits and two walks, but he didn’t allow a ball out of the infield with runners in scoring position.

Kershaw ended with seven scoreless innings for the win. From Elizabeth Islas’ game recap:

This start was very much in-character for Kershaw, who has now tossed at least six innings in each of his 12 starts this season. The cherry on top of this start was doing what he always does best — dominate against the Giants. In his career against San Francisco, he boasts a 1.68 ERA with 343 strikeouts.

The Dodgers were up 3-0 when Kershaw left, but tacked on six runs in the seventh inning, capped off by a pinch-hit grand slam by Kike Hernandez.

That’s two starts, two wins, and three hits allowed for Kershaw on June 18, with 21 strikeouts in 16 scoreless innings, and a combined 17-0 Dodgers advantage.

The outings

2014 (W, 7-2): 9 IP, 0 hits, 15 strikeouts

2019 (W, 7-1): 7 IP, 3 hits, 2 walks, 6 strikeouts

Up next: Run support galore