Sandy Koufax, a man who knows a little something about sustained excellence, almost fought back laughter.
To any harboring concern over Clayton Kershaw's seemingly meddling 2-2 record and 4.24 earned-run average after eight starts, Koufax has a simple message.
"Before the season is over, those numbers are going to be right where they always are," Koufax said.
Kershaw has won three of the last four National League Cy Young awards. He's the NL's reigning MVP. Over his last four seasons, Kershaw is 72-26 with a 2.11 ERA. He's raised his bar to rarefied heights.
Koufax, of course, finished his career with one of the greatest six-year stretches (129-47, 2.19 ERA) in baseball history. In his last four seasons, he went 97-27 with a 1.86 ERA and also won three Cy Youngs and an MVP.
"Clayton is the kind of guy who's always trying to do better," Koufax said. "No matter how high you set the bar, you're doing the best you can. You can't do any better than that.
"Sometimes you pitch well, and the other guy pitches better. Last year he didn't get off to a great start and it was a great year. He's just too good for bad things to keep happening."
Last year in his first six starts, Kershaw was 3-2 with a 3.57 ERA. He went on to finish 21-3 with 1.77 ERA, both marks leading the majors.
Koufax, in Los Angeles on Saturday to take part in the old-timers' game that saluted the 50th anniversary of the Dodgers' 1965 World Series winners, said regardless of the results, he would hardly consider Kershaw's start a poor stretch.
"Everybody has their periods when things aren't right," he said. "What is the rodeo saying? `There's never been a bull that hasn't been rode, never been a cowboy who hasn't been throwed.' There are some days — you're a human being — when it's just not there. But the good ones have a hell of a lot more good days than bad."
Orel Hershiser, another former Dodgers Cy Young winner on the field Saturday for the old-timers' game, said it's one thing to sustain strong performance and another to pull off what Kershaw has.
"It's tremendously hard," Hershiser said. "You're dealing not only with consistency, but consistency of dominance. Usually dominance runs in like months, or half a season. Dominance doesn't run over four years, five years."
Koufax said he could not offer any particularly insight into Kershaw's game-winning performance Friday.
"I was here [in L.A.] last night and it was blacked out," Koufax said.