For most of Clayton Kershaw‘s absence, my feeling has been something along the lines of “well, it stinks not having him, but Zack Greinke and Hyun-jin Ryu and Dan Haren and — yes — Josh Beckett have been so good that it’s hard to complain too much.” And that’s true. Entering the day, the Dodger rotation had the No. 6 ERA in the game. They had the No. 11 FIP. They lost the best pitcher on the planet, they had to patch with Stephen Fife and Red Patterson, and for the most part, they’ve been pretty good. Other than Paul Maholm and a lousy start here and there from Ryu, this rotation has survived just fine without Kershaw.
And then Kershaw returns tonight to strike out nine Nationals without a walk over seven scoreless innings — the eighth time he’s struck out at least nine without a walk, and the second time he’s done so without allowing an earned run — and you wonder just how in the world we ever lived without him.
He was never in trouble. He threw just 89 pitches. He’s pitched one meaningful game since last October. He is, as they say, the absolute best. Here he is, thanks to PitcherGIFs, making Ian Desmond look foolish:
It’s tempting to focus only on the long-awaited return of Kershaw — fun too — but since the team did manage to avoid the seemingly inevitable 1-0 loss by putting up eight runs behind him, it’s probably worth shining some love on the offense as well. Each of the first five hitters in the lineup — Dee Gordon, Carl Crawford, Hanley Ramirez, Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier — had at least two hits, with Crawford collecting three and Kemp adding a walk as well. One of Ramirez’ was a no-doubt solo homer off Ross Detwiler in the eighth; later in the same inning, Drew Butera hit a three-run shot, his second homer of the road trip. Yes, the same Butera who was routinely referred to as “the worst hitter in baseball history” prior to the year.
Oh, and Chris Perez made a total mess of things by retiring only two of the eight Nationals he faced in relief of Kershaw, allowing three runs to score before Jamey Wright took care of the mess and then Kenley Jansen looked wonderful in pitching a scoreless ninth — relax, he hadn’t appeared since Thursday in Minnesota — but we’re not going to talk about that. Not right now. Kershaw, and offense. Life is good.