Clayton Kershaw is superb in joining 200-win club as Dodgers blank Mets

Clayton Kershaw celebrates at Dodger Stadium.
Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw exults after striking out the Mets’ Tommy Pham to end a seventh-inning threat at Dodger Stadium on Tuesday night. Kershaw fanned nine and walked none.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Pitching victories might be a discounted data point in baseball’s modern analytics, written off as an old-school relic too unrepresentative of a singular performance.

To Clayton Kershaw, however, that’s the whole charm of the statistic.

One number that reflects a teamwide effort. An individual accolade that, even in his case as a future Hall of Famer, transcends just his own personal success.


“There’s been a lot of pitchers that have pitched well but maybe don’t have the team behind them,” Kershaw said. “Just reflecting on that, and just thankful for being part of great teams, that’s what wins signify to me.”

That’s why the Dodgers’ 5-0 victory over the New York Mets on Tuesday night at Dodger Stadium carried so much extra meaning for the 35-year-old left-hander, who picked up his 200th career win in dominant style and historic fashion.

Not only did Kershaw become the 117th major league pitcher to reach the 200-win club, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, but he got there with a higher career winning percentage (.694) than any other member, improving his career regular-season record to 200-88.

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Not only did he move into 22nd place on baseball’s all-time strikeout list with nine Tuesday night, but in the process he joined Don Sutton and Don Drysdale as the only Dodgers pitchers with 200 career wins.

Most of all, Kershaw and the Dodgers (9-9) not only snapped the team’s recent struggles — combining his big start with a two-homer, four-RBI game from J.D. Martinez and a clean pair of innings from a previously sputtering bullpen — but did so with the kind of momentum-building result too often lacking in their previous 3-7 skid.

“That’s why tonight is really cool,” a smiling Kershaw said afterward. “Because it’s a team stat, a win.”


Kershaw was the main catalyst on a night the Dodgers were playing without star right fielder Mookie Betts (paternity list), catcher Will Smith (concussion) and utility man Chris Taylor (side) — absences that left their narrowed margin for error early on this season even more precariously thin.

The pitcher started his game on a tightrope, striking out three straight batters to strand a runner at third after Jason Heyward’s three-base error on a dropped fly ball in right.

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He later ended his outing with another high-wire escape, wiggling out of a two-on, two-out jam to complete his 60th career start of at least seven scoreless innings.

“Tonight’s performance really kind of epitomized who he is as a competitor,” manager Dave Roberts said. “He essentially put us on his back today.”

With his family sitting in the front row behind home plate, and a crowd of 46,884 anxiously awaiting history, Kershaw navigated most of the game with his stoic demeanor and trademark intensity.

He located fastballs to the top and the bottom of the strike zone, compensating for long-diminished velocity with an unwavering ability to dial in his command.


He got awkward whiffs on big, looping curveballs, and buried a barrage of late-breaking sliders down and in.

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Through the first six innings, the only hit he surrendered was an infield single.

And then, as his pitch count crossed 100 in the seventh, he managed to extinguish the Mets’ (11-7) biggest threat.

After Mark Canha prevailed in what Kershaw described as a “ridiculous” 13-pitch at-bat, lining a single that left Kershaw feeling “pretty wiped out,” Jeff McNeil followed with another base hit that brought the tying run to the plate with two outs.

As the Dodgers’ bullpen sprang to life, Kershaw circled the mound and mentally reset, breathing heavily beneath the brim of a sweat-stained cap.

“That was a big moment,” catcher Austin Barnes said. “You don’t want to let the game slip away.”

As usual, Kershaw didn’t, uncorking a full-count slider that Tommy Pham flailed at for the biggest out of the game.


“That Canha at-bat kind of exhausted him,” Roberts said. “But for him to find just enough in there to get that last strikeout, you could see the relief, the emotion, from Clayton right there.”

Dodgers' J.D. Martinez prepares to slap hands with Freddie Freeman.
The Dodgers’ J.D. Martinez, right, celebrates with Freddie Freeman after Martinez hit a two-run homer in the first inning. Martinez added a solo blast in the third.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times)

Indeed, amid the joyous roars of an appreciative Chavez Ravine, it was a fired-up Kershaw who perhaps yelled loudest, stomping off the mound with clenched fists as he let out an uncharacteristic scream.

“I don’t know if it was the moment or what, but it was kind of a big moment in the game more than anything,” Kershaw said. “I think that’s where the emotion came from. Obviously it wasn’t planned or anything like that.”

What was pre-planned, just in case Kershaw reached his milestone moment Tuesday, was a postgame Champagne toast in the clubhouse from his teammates, one Kershaw sheepishly acknowledged as “uncomfortable” recognition.

“He’s all about the team and doesn’t certainly play for individual accolades or credit,” Roberts said. “But he understood we wanted to take a moment for him, and he embraced that.”


Freddie Freeman said a few words, surrounded by bubbling glasses. Barnes, Kershaw’s longest-tenured current teammate, chimed in with his perspective as well.

“I just told him how much we appreciate him,” the veteran catcher said. “The way he goes about his business, he sets the tone for this organization.”

That much was clear well before Tuesday night. But now, the Dodgers and Kershaw have 200 wins together to prove it.

“It’s a special, special accomplishment. He’s a special pitcher,” Barnes said, before eliciting a few laughs by adding: “He’s not even really that old, but he’s been doing it for a long time.”