Clayton Kershaw passes Don Drysdale on Dodgers’ all-time strikeout list in win
The 2,487th strikeout of Clayton Kershaw’s career, the one that moved him into second place on the Dodgers’ all-time strikeout list, was aptly executed, with a biting slider that darted off the plate. Shed Long Jr., 12 years old when Kershaw recorded strikeout No. 1 in 2008, couldn’t resist. He lunged and he whiffed.
Kershaw got the ball back and tossed it over to the Dodgers dugout. Don Drysdale was in the rear-view mirror. Only Don Sutton and his 2,696 strikeouts remain ahead. But Kershaw wasn’t done. He chipped at the gap by striking out the next two hitters. He finished with 11 — increasing his career total to 2,493 — over seven innings in the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday
at T-Mobile Park.
“Just to be a Dodger long enough to accomplish something like that is pretty special,” Kershaw said. “Some of the names on that list, it’s pretty cool to be a part of that.”
The left-hander held Seattle to one run and four hits as he logged seven innings for the second consecutive outing. He walked one and threw 96 pitches. His earned-run average plunged to 2.25 across four starts after he began the season on the injured list with a back injury.
The Dodgers placed reliever Pedro Báez on the 10-day injured list Thursday because of right groin strain.
Kershaw relied heavily on his slider and curveball Thursday, but again flexed his fastball’s unusual velocity increase. Rarely does a pitcher experience a decline in fastball velocity for four straight seasons as he did and turn it around. But the 32-year-old Kershaw has defied the trend.
His fastball’s 92.5-mph average in his previous outing against the Angels was his highest over a start since the 2017 World Series. He reached 93.6 mph in that appearance — the hardest pitch he’s thrown since 2017. Last season, over a third of his four-seam fastballs were under 90 mph. Five of his 141 four-seamers haven’t touched 90 this season.
Overall, the fastball averaged 91.9 mph in his first three starts — up from 90.3 mph last season. The difference may seem marginal, but pitching coach Mark Prior said it affords him more crucial margin for error.
“I also think that it allows his slider to keep the velocity and the break on it,” Prior said. “The slider for him is short when it’s good. It’s hard and it’s short and it basically just misses barrels.”
Kershaw induced 12 swing-and-misses with 42 sliders Thursday. Four were called strikes. He finished off six strikeouts with the pitch. He struck out five players with his curveball — one swinging and four looking. Meanwhile, his fastball averaged 91.4 mph. He produced 19 total whiffs and a 44.2% whiff rate — both his highest since July 2017.
“It took a few innings to get my slider going,” Kershaw said. “I tried to do some different things with it and finish it a little bit better and it definitely got better as the game went along.”
He started opposite Yusei Kikuchi, a 29-year-old left-hander who idolized him from afar in Japan before joining the Mariners last season. They both faced lineups that have faltered against left-handers this season.
The Dodgers (19-8) began Thursday with the best record in the majors despite being ranked in the bottom eight in batting average, on-base-percentage, and slugging percentage against left-handed pitchers. The problem surfaced again Tuesday when Mariners left-hander Marco Gonzales held them to one run across seven innings.
Corey Seager, who has hit the ball harder than anyone in the majors, was given Thursday off, but the Dodgers broke through without him.
The Dodgers capitalized on a break to score four runs in the third inning. After Kiké Hernández and Austin Barnes reached to start the inning, Matt Beaty, the recipient of two favorable calls that prevented a strikeout, lined the eighth pitch he saw down the right-field line for an RBI ground-rule double.
Barnes scored on a wild pitch. AJ Pollock and Cody Bellinger, who later homered for the second straight day, each delivered a run-scoring single to give Kershaw a four-run cushion.
That was plenty. While the Dodgers have scuffled against lefties, no team has been as dominated by left-handers as the Mariners. Seattle entered Thursday last in the majors in batting average, slugging percentage, and OPS. Kershaw was the stiffest left-handed test they’ve faced this season and the pattern continued.
The only run Kershaw surrendered came on a solo homer from Kyle Seager, Corey’s older brother, in the fourth inning. It was the fifth home run Kershaw has given up this season. All have been solo shots. He’s given up just one other run.
“Just phenomenal,” Roberts said.
Highlights from the Dodgers’ 6-1 win over the Seattle Mariners on Thursday.
- The Dodgers placed reliever Pedro Báez on the 10-day injured list with a right groin strain Thursday. Right-hander Josh Sborz, already with the team as part of its taxi squad, was recalled to take his place in the bullpen.
- Manager Dave Roberts said he doesn’t expect Edwin Ríos, on the injured list since Monday with a hamstring strain, to be out for much longer than 10 days. Ríos, who sustained the injury Sunday, is eligible for activation Aug. 27.
- Adam Kolarek logged a clean ninth inning to extend his scoreless innings streak to eight innings to begin this season. He’s allowed one earned run in 19 2/3 innings since the Dodgers acquired him last July.
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