For the last three years they had been orbiting each other in baseball's most rarefied air, two of the brightest stars only glimmering at each other from a distance, sharing a freeway but rarely a field.
Finally, Tuesday night at
The game's greatest pitcher against the game's greatest hitter. The two-time
In a game eventually won by the
“You're talking about two of the really young bright megastars of the game,” Angels Manager
It was a singular suspense set against a collective drama, teams with two of the best five records in baseball clinging and chasing, the Dodgers trying to fend off the
“This is the best buzz out here,” Dodgers Manager
That energy immediately centered around Kershaw and Trout. The Dodgers pitcher was greeted with the sort of ovation that was once bestowed upon the likes of Orel Hershiser. The Angels outfielder was showered with the sort of heartfelt boos that once rained down here upon the likes of Barry Bonds.
Kershaw took the mound in the first inning, quickly retired
But was he? The Dodgers challenged the call. While the umpires huddled in foul territory behind home plate, Kershaw stalked behind the mound and Trout stood on first base, the two stars standing 50 feet apart but never looking at each other.
The scoreboard repeatedly showed replays that indicated the play was too close to call. Officials in New York agreed and Trout's safe call was upheld. The fans indignantly howled. Trout had won Round 1.
Two innings later, Trout came to the plate leading off, swinging big again, and this time there was no controversy, no question. He drove Kershaw's first pitch down the left-field line and into the corner for a double. Trout was two for two. Kershaw was zero for answers. The left-hander stepped off the mound, dug his fist into his beard stubble, and proceeded to allow an
Their next encounter was two innings later, in the fifth, with one out and the bases empty, score still tied. Trout dug in at the plate. He had already had two good swings, why not expect a third?
Not so fast. The scrapper had apparently had enough. Kershaw reared back and threw what appeared to be his three hardest consecutive pitches of the night, three 94-mph buzz saws that dipped and swirled and spun through the zone.
The slippery Trout was frozen solid. Those two big swings were distant memories. This time the bat never left his shoulder. This time he struck out looking. Round 3 to Kershaw.
Ah, but if only they could have dueled all night. Unfortunately, before Trout could lead off the eighth inning, Kershaw was pulled for pinch-hitter
But Kershaw held his ground until the end, even in the clubhouse later. When asked about facing Trout, Kershaw tightened his jaw.
"I'll talk about facing the Angels, he's one of their best hitters," he said.
When asked again about details of the matchup, he repeated, "I'm not going to talk about individual guys. He's a great hitter. He got two hits tonight."
In the other clubhouse, Trout was much more talkative, his excitable youth in stark contrast to Kershaw's veteran edge.
"Always fun to match up, he battles out there, he's a competitor," said Trout. "All heaters except that one curveball . . . my third at-bat he just painted me in . . . it was pretty cool facing him."