Clayton Kershaw set the Dodgers record for strikeouts on Saturday, passing Don Sutton for the top spot on the franchise leaderboard.
Spencer Torkelson was Kershaw’s record-setting 2,697th strikeout, the latest in a long line of milestone strikeouts in the left-hander’s 15-year career.
Milestone strikeouts for Clayton Kershaw
|1||May 25, 2008||20.067||Los Angeles||Cardinals||Skip Schumaker (swinging)||1st|
|500||Mar 31, 2011||23.012||Los Angeles||Giants||Buster Posey (swinging)||1st|
|1,000||Apr 17, 2013||25.029||Los Angeles||Padres||Yonder Alonso (swinging)||2nd|
|1,292||Jun 18, 2014||26.091||Los Angeles||Rockies||Corey Dickerson (swinging)||9th|
|1,457*||Apr 11, 2015||27.023||Phoenix||D-backs||Tuffy Gosewich (looking)||2nd|
|1,500||May 10, 2015||27.052||Denver||Rockies||Drew Stubbs (looking)||3rd|
|1,745~||Oct 4, 2015||27.199||Los Angeles||Padres||B.J. Upton (swinging)||3rd|
|2,000||Jun 2, 2017||29.075||Milwaukee||Brewers||Jonathan Villar (swinging)||2nd|
|2,397#||Aug 1, 2019||31.135||Los Angeles||Padres||Austin Hedges (swinging)||6th|
|2,487^||Aug 20, 2020||32.154||Seattle||Mariners||Shed Long (swinging)||5th|
|2,500||Sep 3, 2020||32.168||Los Angeles||D-backs||Nick Ahmed (swinging)||2nd|
|2,697||Apr 30, 2022||34.042||Los Angeles||Tigers||Spencer Torkelson (swinging)||4th|
Kershaw made his major league debut on May 25, 2008, just shy of two years after he was drafted in the first round. But his arrival was announced earlier that spring, with a strikeout of Sean Casey in Vero Beach. Kershaw’s curveball buckled Casey’s knees so much that Vin Scully dubbed the pitch “Public Enemy No. 1.”
But he used a different pitch to record his first major league strikeout that counted.
Jill Painter Lopez at the Orange County Register noted that Kershaw, just two months after his 20th birthday, cracked a smile after his first striking out, a future teammate.
“The baby-faced pitcher had just recorded the first strikeout of his major-league career on a high fastball to the Cardinals’ Skip Schumaker, the first batter he faced,” she wrote. “Kershaw, the unflappable kid with the sensational curveball, couldn’t help it.”
Kershaw struck out his 500th batter on opening day in 2011, the start of his first Cy Young Award season. Two years later he won his second Cy Young, and that April became the second-fastest Dodger to 1,000 strikeouts by both age (only Fernando Valenzuela was younger) and by innings (only Hideo Nomo reached it faster).
Strikeout number 1,292 doesn’t seem like a milestone, as its not a round number, nor did it mark a memorable rung on the all-time ladder. But when Kershaw fanned Corey Dickerson in the ninth inning on June 18, 2014, it capped off his most dominant pitching performance, finishing off a 15-strikeout, zero-walk no-hitter to beat the Rockies.
“He’s the best pitcher on the planet,” boasted catcher A.J. Ellis after the game, “and it’s not even close.”
Kershaw won his third Cy Young that season, and was also named National League MVP.
In 2015, Kershaw was the first major league pitcher to strike out 300 batters in a season in 13 years, and the first Dodger to do so since Sandy Koufax 49 years earlier. B.J. Upton was the batter for No. 300, marking the 1,745th strikeout of Kershaw’s career.
Two seasons later, Kershaw was the fifth-youngest pitcher in MLB history to reach 2,000 strikeouts, when he got Jonathan Villar swinging in Milwaukee:
Kershaw is 29 years, 75 days old on Friday. Only four players were faster by age, led by Bert Blyleven at 28 years, 97 days old on July 12, 1979, when pitching for the Pirates he fanned Terry Puhl of the Astros to lead off the game in Houston for his 2,000th strikeout.
Kershaw’s steady climb to the top of the Dodgers franchise strikeout list saw him pass Koufax in 2019, then Don Drysdale in 2020. Two weeks after passing Drysdale, Kershaw got Nick Ahmed swinging for his 2,500th career strikeout.
As of now, Kershaw ranks 26th on MLB’s all-time strikeout list, with Frank Tanana sitting at 25th with 2,773 strikeouts.
On Saturday, Kershaw passed Sutton to set the Dodgers franchise record, the latest milestone in a career full of them.