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Nats can only offer kudos to Kershaw

Jul 18, 2015, 8:30 PM EST

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The afternoon, unusual as it was, started off in such uplifting fashion. The Nationals used a pinch-hit home run from Matt den Dekker and three scoreless innings of relief from Aaron Barrett, Casey Janssen and Drew Storen to win the completion of Friday night’s suspended game, 5-3 over the Dodgers.

And then Clayton Edward Kershaw, 27-year-old left-hander from Los Angeles via Dallas, took the mound at Nationals Park and all those good vibes dissipated into the thick midsummer air, overcome by as dominant a pitching performance as has been seen in these parts in a long time.

Over eight utterly brilliant innings, Kershaw turned the Nationals lineup into mincemeat. He allowed only three hits, all singles. He didn’t issue any walks. He struck out 14 batters, most ever by an opposing pitcher since the Nats franchise arrived in town a decade ago. He induced 30 swings-and-misses, matching the most recorded by any major-league pitcher in the last seven years, during what wound up a 4-2 victory for the Dodgers.

“He put on a clinic today,” said Bryce Harper, only the best hitter in the game at this moment. “He went out there and pitched like the MVP he is. It was devastating. We went in there and tried to do what we could. But he’s the best pitcher in baseball. He’s pretty tough.”

The two guys who will take the mound Sunday afternoon for what is now the rubber game of this series — Max Scherzer and Zack Greinke — could certainly stake claim to that title right now. But what Kershaw has done over the last five seasons — three Cy Young Awards, the NL MVP, a 2.20 collective ERA — allows him to hold that distinction, even if 2015 has been a bit of a down year by his lofty standards.

And rarely has Kershaw, or anybody else, pitched as well as he did Saturday on sweltering South Capitol Street.

Over those eight innings, the Nationals managed three measly singles: Clint Robinson in the second, Doug Fister in the third, Danny Espinosa in the sixth. Those were the only men who reached base against him, with only Espinosa advancing beyond first base and only because of Justin Turner’s throwing error.

And it’s not like the other guys were hitting the ball hard right at Dodgers defenders. Only three of the 24 outs Kershaw recorded came via flyballs.

No, the Nationals barely could make contact against the tall Texan lefty. Kershaw struck out two batters in each of his first seven innings, inducing a staggering 30 swings-and-misses along the way.

“Unfortunately, I’ve seen that way too much,” said manager Matt Williams, who previously coached the Diamondbacks, a regular NL West opponent of the Dodgers. “He’s a pretty good pitcher. He establishes strikes and then goes down out of the zone. I don’t know how many curveballs he threw today, probably 15 of them. He may have thrown one for a ball. That’s why he’s good.”

Maybe the only mistake Kershaw made all day was not convince Los Angeles manager Don Mattingly to send him back to the mound for the ninth. With his starter’s pitch count at 101 on one of the hottest days of the summer, and with his team up 4-0 at the time, Mattingly decided to send Kershaw to the showers and summon closer Kenley Jansen to the mound for the ninth.

That move gave the Nationals just a glimmer of hope. Washington native Emmanuel Burriss, getting his first career at-bat in D.C. while playing for his hometown team, singled up the middle to bring Harper to the plate. The 2015 MVP frontrunner then launched a Jansen pitch into the second deck in right field, his 27th homer of the season cutting the Dodgers’ lead in half.

That’s as far as the comeback ever got, though. Jansen struck out both Yunel Escobar and Robinson to end the game and ensure Kershaw’s dominant stats would hold up. Over his last six starts against the Nationals, he is now 6-0 with an 0.97 ERA.

“When he’s on like that, you better get lucky,” said Harper, now 1-for-9 with six strikeouts (and a homer) in his career vs. Kershaw. “He’s pretty impressive. We’ve just got to tip our cap to Clayton today and hopefully go over and get Greinke tomorrow and see where we’re at by the [end of the] weekend.”

  1. Doc - Jul 18, 2015 at 8:58 PM

    There were three RH hitters on the Nats’ DL that ‘might’ have done some damage to Kershshaw.

    • senators5 - Jul 19, 2015 at 12:15 AM

      The key word is “might.”

  2. knoxvillenat - Jul 18, 2015 at 9:03 PM

    Mighty impressive performance by Kershaw and it doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Greinke on the mound for the Dodgers. Go Max!

  3. Drew - Jul 18, 2015 at 9:54 PM

    Trea Turner, who hit .322 at San Antonio and .359 in his 10 games at Harrisburg is now hitting .300 at Syracuse.

    Since his 0 for 17 start at Syracuse he’s 21 for 54 — a .389 clip.

    • scmargenau - Jul 19, 2015 at 1:26 AM

      Screw desi – the guy is clearly a star. He has excelled at every level

  4. Joe Seamhead - Jul 19, 2015 at 12:52 AM

    I enjoyed watching Kershaw today. The guy put on a clinic, but unfortunately it was at the Nats expense.

    Off topic, but Tyler Clippard blew a save in the 9th tonight, allowing the Twins to tie it up at 2-2. In the 10th, Billy Burns led off with a double, promptly stole 3rd, and scored the winning run on a single by Vogt. It was Burns’ 19 SB of the year.

  5. Greg - Jul 19, 2015 at 1:39 AM

    So Kershaw finally had a good game. Yank yank. The world will not collapse if he isn’t in the news. ESPN is going nuts over this. Good Game. Now let’s move on.

  6. natsfan1a - Jul 19, 2015 at 6:36 AM

    Yeah, he was pretty much lights out. I was hoping he might not like our humidity and have to leave the game early. Eh, not so much.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 19, 2015 at 9:33 AM

      “Lights out.” I see what you did there!

  7. Doc - Jul 19, 2015 at 7:36 AM

    interestingly about Trey Turner’s successful clip in Syracuse, he hit his first 2 bagger yesterday, to go with his 2 triples and 2 HRs. More doubles to come.

    • Hiram Hover - Jul 19, 2015 at 9:42 AM

      “Trea” Turner.

  8. unkyd59 - Jul 19, 2015 at 7:56 AM

    If Turner keeps this up another couple of weeks, he’s liable to make a seer out of Bowden. You want to get him up here in time to acclimate, and be hitting .320, by October… I still love Desi, but he’s becoming an afterthought, before his replacement even shows up….

    • Doc - Jul 19, 2015 at 8:34 AM

      On most teams, Turner would already be making arrangements for a stall with the clubhouse manager.

      It probably won’t happen, but Trey’s roommate Joe Cool should be on his way too! Doug Fister has stopped fooling hitters with his 86 mph FB.

  9. topnat - Jul 19, 2015 at 9:27 AM

    Dont forget Turner steals bases and will be the fastest player on the roster when he gets here. With Span’s back issues this team needs a back up lead off man and its Turner. Desi will be under .200 by monday. It’s about time to remember there are 24 other players efforts and emotions to care about, not just Desi’s. He’s been the bedrock of the franchise getting them to this point. His time has passed with this team.

  10. Hiram Hover - Jul 19, 2015 at 9:32 AM

    Don’t forget that Rendon is likely coming back soon. That will give the Nats other options to shuffle the infield if they decide to sit Desi.

  11. Theophilus T.S. - Jul 19, 2015 at 10:09 AM

    My prediction a month or so ago was that Desmond’s job was safe at least until he reached the Mendoza line. Daah Dum!, as the theme from “Jaws” tells us. He did have a good swing on a line drive to LF yesterday, first time in a long time I’ve seem him take a relaxed hack at a ball. It’s pretty said, though, if we’re being encouraged by a loud out.

    Previously I thought Turner would be the beneficiary of a Desmond shut-down. But Espinosa and Rendon are the obvious middle IFs, so why would you promote the organization’s top prospect just to sit on the bench? Now I believe he’s stuck in Syracuse until September — though on September 1 he’s in Washington (or wherever the team happens to be at the moment).

    • zmunchkin - Jul 19, 2015 at 10:27 AM

      Great point. If Espi, Rendon and Escobar are all healthy and MW sits Desmond. those three are starting. Leave Trea at Syracuse where he can get 3-5 PAs every game.

  12. Joe Seamhead - Jul 19, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Turner’s speed is ridiculous. I’d like to see the Nats organization teach him how to exploit it, and I mean to really exploit it. The righthanded hitting Turner has run through first base in the 3.5 second range, which easily clears the threshold for 80-grade speed. 3.5 seconds to 1B by a RH-ed batter is insane fast.

  13. Soul Possession, My Sofa - Jul 19, 2015 at 11:07 AM

    So when Trea comes up, whenever it is, doesnhe get #33, which I think is available, or buy #3 from Michael A?

  14. Joe Seamhead - Jul 19, 2015 at 11:26 AM

    With a name like Trea he certainly should wear #3,

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