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When Clayton Kershaw was Shohei Ohtani for a day

In early May in 2016, Kershaw two-way’d the Dodgers to a victory

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Over a handful of years ago, the rebuilding Padres came to Dodger Stadium, and Clayton Kershaw was Shohei Ohtani for a day, with one of the more dominant performances you’ll ever see.

As a baseball fan, there hasn’t been a more pleasurable experience than watching Kershaw take the mound. The Dodgers’ iconic left-hander entrenched himself among the game’s all-time greatest, and did so with tremendous class.

No matter the optimistic outlook we choose to have, the truth is that we don’t even know if we’ll see Kershaw pitching for the Dodgers again. Between the injury recovery, eventual retirement, and the possibility of a return to Texas to pitch for the Rangers, there are too many variables. Whatever happens with Kershaw, it was a pleasure.

Amidst the sea of unforgettable games, from the no-hitter versus the Rockies to the opening day shutout against the Giants which also included his sole career home run, one stands out for me: the day when Kershaw was Ohtani.

There was no great meaning behind this start on May 1, 2016. The Padres that year had a roster in full rebuild, and per usual, the Dodgers cruised to another playoff appearance.

Kershaw was dominant, but it’s not as if he were on a level we didn’t see plenty of other times across shutouts versus the Rockies, Mets, Giants, and other clubs.

If you want to know the exact reason why this game is one of my Roman Empires? Well, I don’t necessarily have it, but because of all the stuff we just mentioned regarding Kershaw, now it’s as good a time as any to reminisce on a great moment.

It was the first of May, and the Padres were wrapping up a weekend series on a beautiful Sunday in Dodger Stadium.

Set to face off were a couple of left-handers, with Kershaw going for the Dodgers and Drew Pomeranz. Small note — it’s understandable that it was early in his career, but it’s still funny to see Corey Seager hitting seventh in that Dodgers lineup.

Kershaw showed signs of what was to come that day, starting off the afternoon with four straight strikeouts (three of them looking), and it took 16 straight outs between both teams before someone recorded a hit.

With one out in the bottom of the third, Kershaw’s battery mate A.J. Ellis, went up to the box and achieved the sole extra-base hit in that whole game, hitting a double.

Still before the universal designated hitter, it was the pitcher set to hit with one out in the frame. Kershaw went up there for his first at-bat and banged a single right up the middle to give LA the lead.

As far as scoring, that would be that for the day. Pomeranz shut everything down on the Dodgers end, and Kershaw continued to dominate, both allowed three hits each, all singles except for the Ellis double. Kershaw issued no walks, and Pomeranz only an intentional one.

I still remember Vin Scully’s call at the end of it, as Kershaw and Ellis shook hands to celebrate the win and shutout, he echoed something along the lines of. “The combination not only mentally, but also physically, gives the Dodgers this win.”

At a time of slow games, dragged out without the pitch clock, this was the exception, as this affair lasted just a shade over two hours.

To showcase a little just how dominant Kershaw was, he threw that shutout on 101 pitches, and earned a game score of 95, the third-best in his career. The highest game score ever recorded in nine innings is from Kerry Wood in his 20-strikeout game, at 105. Kershaw’s no-hitter in 2014 had a 105 game score, for reference.

Kershaw also drove in the only run of the game, making this an even more memorable performance.