Guest Post by Frank Martinez
Last night Clayton Kershaw pitched an absolute gem. A complete game 6 hit, 15 strikeout masterpiece, while also victimizing 2 Giant base runners with his elite pickoff move. To sweeten the achievement, he did so in the final game of a three game series against the arch rival San Francisco Giants. To spoil us fans even more, it capped off a three game sweep and pushed the “hated ones” 6.5 games back in the standings with 30 games to play.
It almost didn’t happen. After 8 innings, Kershaw had thrown 105 pitches and was due up 2nd in bottom of the inning. All signs pointed toward a shower for the Dodgers ace and a nail-biting 9th inning from a reliever other than closer Kenley Jansen who was unavailable after pitching the last few high stress 9th innings. On at least 5 previous occasions this season, Manager Don Mattingly has pulled his pitching Ace in similar circumstances, when Dodger fans unanimously cried for 1 more inning. In too many of those occasions, the cries of fans appeared justified when the bullpen came in and blew the game. The fear of fans after the 8th inning was a repeat of such happenings.
When Kershaw strutted to the plate in the top of the 9th inning, the crowd cheered, knowing that the 105 pitches Kershaw had accumulated were relatively stress-free. He should have plenty in the tank to finish the job.
The bottom of the 9th inning began with Kershaw touching 95 on the radar gun. Vin Scully apply noted that the adrenaline was pumping inside Kershaw’s veins. The first two batters were retired as planned, the second batter on Kershaws’ 14th strikeout, tying his season high. The stadium atmosphere was electric. But two consecutive singles put runners on 1st and 2nd. A curve ball didn’t break, and slider was laced to the outfield. One extra base hit and everything could turn around. The Giants recently acquired right-handed power threat, Marlon Byrd was due up next. Kershaw had reached 127 pitches, 5 off is all time high. Matting exited the dugout and began his trot to the pitchers’ mound.
Vin Scully was heard on broadcast professing his opinion that there is “no way Clayton will want to come out”. Surely Mattingly could recall the last time he made a similar visit to the mound in a playoff type atmosphere. Kershaw went on make a game-costing pitch each time. After Kershaw proved Vin Scully right by defiantly responding to his manager, Mattingly left his Ace out there to finish the job. The crowd roared. Kershaw went on to record his career high t tying 15th strikeout. A glowing performance for Kershaw, but it was Mattingly’s post game comments which shined afterward. He would go on to explain that every time he pulled Kershaw early in previous starts, it would be for moments like this during the stretch run. “ You save your bullets so that you can fire them later when you really need them.” Mattingly explained. Kershaw fired them and Mattingly shines.