LOS ANGELES — Clayton Kershaw on Saturday turned in a vintage performance, holding MLB’s best-hitting team against left-handers to only two singles in seven innings. It capped off a stellar month for the Dodgers left-hander, who looked an awful lot like his vintage self in April.
Kershaw struck out nine Cardinals on Saturday, and induced a season-high 19 swinging strikes.
“It was his best start, stuff-wise, start to finish,” manager Dave Roberts said.
Saturday looked an awful lot like 11 days earlier, when Kershaw earned his 200th career win. Both starts were seven innings, with no runs, no walks, and nine strikeouts. On April 18 against the Mets, Kershaw allowed three hits, one more than he allowed to St. Louis.
Kershaw had an 80 game score against the Mets, and 82 against the Cardinals. There have only been 20 games scores of at least 80 in MLB this season. Kershaw, Zac Gallen, and Eduardo Rodriguez are the only pitchers with two.
Consistency is the key for Kershaw, who leads the majors by throwing strikes 71.3-percent of the time. His 3.5-percent walk rate is eighth-lowest. That’s helped him pitch at least six innings in all six of his starts. No other major leaguer has more than five such starts this season.
Clayton Kershaw’s April
Kershaw’s 38 innings pitched lead the National League.
“Innings pitched is something I take pride in. Obviously, I haven’t been able to do it the way I’ve wanted to in the past few years, so getting off to a good start in that is great. It just means you’re going out there every fifth day for your team, and making it count,” Kershaw said Saturday. “That’s where it all starts. If the starter goes deep into the game, it sets up your bullpen the way you want it. It keeps them fresh for the next day. That’s what we’re supposed to do.”
The last Dodgers pitcher age 35 or older to pitch 38 innings in a month was Max Scherzer in September/October 2021, and before that it was Hiroki Kuroda and Ted Lilly in August 2011.
Kershaw is only the fifth Dodgers pitcher age 35 or older to strike out 40 batters in a month, joining Dazzy Vance (six times), Kevin Brown (four times), Rich Hill (twice), and Max Scherzer (twice).
This was Kershaw’s first month pitching as a 35-year-old.
With a 1.89 ERA in April, Kershaw had his 22nd career month with a sub-2.00 ERA in at least five starts. But it’s happened only four times since the start of the 2017 season, including ending last season strong with a 1.54 ERA in seven starts in September/October.
His April was so good he got his career WHIP under 1.000 again for the first time in four and a half years.
How is Kershaw able to still reach these heights in his 16th season?
“His stuff plays good off of each other. His fastball rises, his slider kind of goes down, and then you have the curveball,” said catcher Austin Barnes. “He’s very repetitive, and he comes at you, constantly comes after you. It’s a testament to him.”