The slider was the key pitch for Kershaw in this one, getting 12 swinging strikes on his slider on the night, and finished off six of his 11 strikeouts with the pitch. Kershaw got 19 whiffs on the night, his most since July 9, 2017, when he had 22 swinging strikes against the Royals.
He threw more sliders (42) than fastballs (33), and mixed in a season-high 21 curves as well.
“The slider, that was a difference maker. He was able to strike it, shorten it,” manager Dave Roberts said on a postgame conference call. “There’s nothing to say that you can’t still be on the attack using secondary pitches.”
Kershaw’s only run allowed was a fourth-inning home run by Kyle Seager. Kershaw has allowed six runs in 24 innings so far this season, with five coming via solo home run. He has 29 strikeouts and four walks to go with a 2.25 ERA.
Thursday was the 63rd double-digit strikeout game of Kershaw’s career in the regular season, and this one came with a milestone.
MLB all-time strikeout list
Kershaw’s strikeout of Shed Long Jr. in the fifth inning was his fifth of the night, and 2,487th of his career, passing Don Drysdale for second-most in franchise history. Naturally, the strikeout was finished off with a slider, after which the ball was saved for posterity.
The only pitcher with more strikeouts for the Dodgers is Don Sutton, with 2,696.
Kershaw moved into 39th place on MLB’s all-time strikeout list. With 11 strikeouts on Thursday, Kershaw is just seven shy of 2,500 in his career.
“Someday I’ll look back on it and think that’s pretty cool,” Kershaw said. “But for today it was it was just a great start all the way around. Good game from the whole team, really.”
Offense in clusters
The Dodgers went down in order in six of nine innings on Thursday, but bunched together more than enough support in two long frames.
Four hits and a walk plated four runs in the third inning against Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi, including a ground-rule double by Matt Beaty and RBI singles from A.J. Pollock and Cody Bellinger.
A wild fifth inning gave the Dodgers some insurance, and chased Kikuchi from the game. The Dodgers didn’t get a hit in the inning, but a combined four walks and a wild pitch from Kikuchi and reliever Taylor Gilbeau plated an extra run. Kikuchi and Gilbeau combined for seven strikes in 27 pitches in the frame, including 12 consecutive balls at one point.
Cody Bellinger added a solo home run in the eighth, his second straight game with a long ball. He was 2-for-3 with a walk on Thursday, his third multi-hit game in the last week. Bellinger on August 13 was hitting .165/.224/.266 with four extra-base hits through 19 games. Since then he’s hitting .280/.344/.760 with four home runs in seven games.
He said the team’s hot start — 19-8, best record in baseball — helped him not to press while going through his slump (Bellinger’s now at .192/.263/.385 on the season).
“I think in this instance, where the team is so good, it definitely makes it a little easier,” Bellinger said. “Obviously, I don’t want to be hitting like this, but the team is going to have your back if you’re not doing what you should be doing.”
Home runs: Cody Bellinger (6); Kyle Seager (5)
WP — Clayton Kershaw (3-1): 7 IP, 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk, 11 strikeouts
LP — Yusei Kikuchi (0-2): 4⅔ IP, 4 hits, 5 runs, 4 walks, 5 strikeouts
The Dodgers return home to finish off the first half of their schedule, playing the Rockies for the first time in 2020. Walker Buehler starts the series opener in Los Angeles (6:40 p.m. PT, SportsNet LA), facing off against Jon Gray for Colorado.