On the scoreboard in right field, it was 10:08 p.m. in the City of the Angels. And a crowd of 46,069 had just sat in to see the best pitcher in baseball throw the first no-hitter of his career.
Clayton Kershaw, who reminds us of Sandy Koufax with every flash of greatness, did it with a flurry. He struck out the final batter, Corey Dickerson. He struck out 15, setting a career high. So, when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record book, that "K" stood out even more than the E-R-S-H-A-W.
Kershaw, the most intense of competitors, threw his arms into the sky. He dropped his glove. He fell into the embrace of his catcher, A.J. Ellis.
He allowed himself a rare smile, and an awfully wide one, when Ellis handed him the game ball from the 8-0 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday. Kershaw tucked it into his back pocket, safe among the buckets of Gatorade and dozens of soap bubbles that his giddy teammates poured over his head.
"I'll remember this for the rest of my life," Kershaw said.
Never in major league history had a pitcher given up neither a hit nor a walk while striking out 15. The only pitcher with more strikeouts in a no-hitter: Nolan Ryan, the all-time strikeout leader.
Kershaw is so respected that his teammates lined up in front of the dugout to listen to his postgame television interview. The best player on the other team, Troy Tulowitzki, also looked on from his dugout.
For the first time in Los Angeles history, the Dodgers have two no-hitters in the same season, following Josh Beckett's gem in May.
"Beckett told me he was going to teach me to do that," Kershaw said.
The last time any team had two no-hitters in the same season? The Chicago Cubs, in 1972. The last time the Dodgers did it? In Brooklyn, in 1956, when Carl Erskine and Sal Maglie did it.
Kershaw was one blemish from perfection. The blemish was not his own.
He had retired the first 18 batters. Dickerson led off the seventh with a ground ball to shortstop Hanley Ramirez.
Ramirez charged the slowly hit ball. He had more time than he realized, did not steady himself before making a throw. The throw sailed wide for an error, and Kershaw had lost the perfect game.
One batter later, he nearly lost the no-hitter.
Tulowitzki, with the highest batting average in the major leagues, hammered a ground ball, hard down the third base line. Miguel Rojas, a career minor leaguer promoted only because of injuries, made a spectacular play to field the wicked hopper behind the bag. He threw a one-hopper to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who made an adept scoop.
If Gonzalez had not done so, the no-hitter might still have been intact — an error could have been charged to Rojas — but Kershaw would have lost his shutout. Dickerson, who had taken second base on Ramirez's error and third on a ground ball, would have scored.
Kershaw is so good — the major league leader in earned-run average three years running — that he could not say for sure he had the best stuff of his career Wednesday. "I don't know," he said.
He said he sensed the no-hit possibility, and the buzz in the ballpark, around the sixth and seventh innings. By the ninth inning, he said, "You just want to get it over with as fast as possible."
He got the first two outs on two pitches.
"I was tearing up in the ninth inning," Ellis said. "To do it with my best friend on the mound means the world."
Dickerson struck out, and the celebration was on, but not before Ellis calmly dropped his mask at home plate. He injured his ankle when he jumped to celebrate Beckett's no-hitter and landed on the mask of catcher Drew Butera, and he was not about to make that mistake again.
"I made sure," Ellis said, "that I did not leave earth."