You could set your watch to it. Clayton Kershaw started on every June 2 for each of his first five major league seasons. He’s started six times on June 4, making this one of his most prolific dates on the calendar (it’s not the busiest, but it’s close).
It’s fun to go through so many starts by Kershaw, especially early ones, because his evolution as a pitcher, and in some cases me as a baseball writer, becomes clearer.
Kershaw’s first June 4 start was his third major league start, facing Rockies legend Aaron Cook in a weekday day game at Dodger Stadium in 2008.
Kershaw struck out two in each of the first two innings, but also allowed a single to Chris Iannetta followed by a two-run home run by Jeff Baker in the second inning. Kershaw walked four, and with 104 pitches his day was done after five innings.
The lone Dodgers run was a time capsule moment in the sixth inning, when Matt Kemp singled home Chin-lung Hu after Chan Ho Park sacrificed him into scoring position. Those two runs against Kershaw held up for a 2-1 Colorado win, hanging Kershaw with a loss for his first major league decision.
In 2009 Kershaw the Dodgers were home on June 4, facing their nemeses in Cole Hamels and the Phillies. These Dodgers lost to Philadelphia in the NLCS the year before, and would do so in 2009 as well. Hamels was the key to the Phillies’ World Series run in 2008, and it was more of the same in this one, with the left-hander throwing a five-hit shutout. At this point Hamels was 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA in five starts against the Dodgers, all in a 10-month span.
Kershaw was fine in this game, but was no Hamels. Chase Utley doubled and scored in the fourth, and Raul Ibanez doubled home a run in the sixth, ending Kershaw’s night. Kershaw walked three, leading to his early exit. From my game recap:
Clayton Kershaw was his usual maddening self, showing flashes of brilliance (five strikeouts through his first four innings), yet was unable to last deep into the game. Kershaw pitched 5.1 innings, and has lasted six innings in only four of 11 starts this season.
In 2010 the Dodgers were home again on June 4, facing the Braves, and built an early 4-0 lead.
Kershaw allowed a pair of runs in the third, one unearned, but still had a 4-2 lead into the seventh. A walk to Troy Glaus put two runners on with two outs, and ended Kershaw’s night.
From my game recap:
Kershaw was wild, walking five batters in his 6 2/3 innings, but he also struck out nine. Had Escobar not singled in the seventh inning, Kershaw would have allowed two runs for the sixth straight start. As it stands, he has allowed a total of seven earned runs in his last 40 innings, walking 18 while striking out 45.
Hong-Chih Kuo allowed the game-tying double, both runs charged to Kershaw’s ledger. The Dodgers got the lead back immediately in the bottom of the inning, and won 5-4.
This was also the day legendary UCLA coach John Wooden died. Vin Scully addressed the death during the broadcast.
In 2011 the Dodgers were finally on the road on June 4, in Cincinnati against the Reds. This would turn into a wild game into extra innings, but early on it was a great pitching duel between Kershaw and Johnny Cueto. Kershaw retired his first 11 batters faced and through five innings had nine strikeouts and faced the minimum.
Then, it all fell apart. From my game recap:
Kershaw entered the sixth inning having retired 22 of his last 23 batters, and had a scoreless inning streak of 17 innings, during which he allowed just four hits, two walks, and had 24 strikeouts. With two outs and a runner on second with a 1-0 lead, Kershaw walked Drew Stubbs, then gave up a bloop single to Brandon Phillips (7-for-13 lifetime off Kershaw) to tie the game. Kershaw then hung a slider to Joey Votto, who MVP’d it into the right field stands for a 4-1 lead.
Down 4-2 in the seventh left again with two runners on, this time with one out. Both scored with hits off Mike MacDougal, giving Kershaw six runs allowed. He’d get a no-decision thanks to a five-run tying rally in the eighth inning punctuated by a Kemp grand slam, then a four-run rally in the 11th for the win.
Jay Bruce, a left-handed batter, is 6-for-39 (.154) with no extra-base hits and 19 strikeouts in his career against Kershaw. Two of those hits came in this game.
In 2012, Kershaw was on the mound for his fifth consecutive June 4, this time on the road in Philadelphia. This was the same day as the first round of the MLB Draft, in which the Dodgers drafted a high school shortstop from North Carolina named Corey Seager.
Kershaw was staked to a 3-0 lead early in this one, but that was gone by the third inning, with Placido Polanco hitting the tying two-run homer. No other Phillies scored against Kershaw, who lasted seven innings even if it looked his night might have been shorter. From my game recap:
Kershaw was able to overcome a one-out triple by Jimmy Rollins in the fifth inning, thanks largely to the contact play, but Kershaw’s biggest obstacle appeared to come while batting in the top of the seventh. While running to first base on a sacrifice bunt, Kershaw appeared to tweak something in one of his legs, though the extent of the injury was hard to discern from one of the roughly 50 replays on both KCAL and ESPN.
Kershaw came out to pitch the seventh, and though he allow two bloop singles and an infield hit to load the bases he was able to exit the inning unscathed.
The game remained tied until the ninth, when Dee Gordon tripled and Elian Herrera singled him home against Jonathan Papelbon, giving the Dodgers the win. Another no-decision for Kershaw.
After five starts without a win on June 4, Kershaw took a few years off and the sixth time proved to be the charm. The Dodgers were home against the Braves on a Saturday night in 2016.
Kershaw only faced two batters over the minimum through five, with the Dodgers nursing a 1-0 lead into the sixth. A hit batter and a single gave Atlanta a rally in the sixth, but Kershaw kept them at bay. He threw 27 pitches in the frame, ending his night.
From Craig Minami’s game recap:
The last time Clayton Kershaw pitched just six innings and gave up no runs was May 23, 2014 when he and four relievers shut out the Phillies 2-0. Tonight, Kershaw gave up 3 hits, one walk, one hit by pitch and four strikeouts, that was good enough for his eighth win of the season.
The Dodgers blew open the one-run lead with a three-run eighth, and three relievers held up the team shutout. In total, Kershaw in his six starts on June 4 has a 3.93 ERA with 36 strikeouts and 15 walks in 36⅔ innings.
2008 (L, 0-1): 5 IP, 5 hits, 2 runs, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
2009 (L, 3-4): 5⅓ IP, 4 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, 5 strikeouts
2010: 6⅔ IP, 5 hits, 4 runs (3 earned), 5 walks, 8 strikeouts
2011: 6⅔ IP, 6 hits, 6 runs, 2 walks, 9 strikeouts
2012: 7 IP, 8 hits, 3 runs, 5 strikeouts
2016 (W, 8-1): 6 IP, 3 hits, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts
Up next: Back to a boring old one-start day tomorrow