Ranking Clayton Kershaw’s 8 career Opening Day starts

Clayton Kershaw (Photo: Cody Bashore)

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts announced all the way back in March that Clayton Kershaw (not Walker Buehler) would get the ball on Opening Day. Four months later, that is still the case.

Before we get to ranking all eight of his Opening Day starts, let’s see how well he has done in them as a whole.

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The Dodgers are 7-1 in Kershaw’s eight Opening Day starts. Here they are, ranked.

1. April 1, 2013: Dodgers 4, Giants 0

9 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 7 K, .521 WPA, 86 Game Score

This was Kershaw’s lone complete game on Opening Day. It also happens to be one of his 15 career shutouts. He dominated the defending World Series cha … nah … Giants by allowing just four base runners the entire game. He needed just 94 pitches to dispatch ‘Frisco, giving him a Maddux. But he might be more remembered for this:

He launched the first pitch of the bottom of the eighth inning to break the 0-0 stalemate. That was super cool.

2. April 4, 2016: Dodgers 15, Padres 0

7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K, .249 WPA, 83 Game Score

Kershaw didn’t have much resistance in this one, as the Dodgers dropped 15 on the hapless Padres. Despite 12 of the runs coming in innings 6 through 8, even when it was 3-0, the result of this one wasn’t in doubt. Kershaw allowed just two base runners in his seven innings of work. The Dodgers scored 25 runs in the 3-game series in San Diego.

3. March 31, 2011: Dodgers 2, Giants 1

7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 9 K, .428 WPA, 77 Game Score

Kershaw took a no-decision in this one, but it was one of his best, again against the defending something or other. He established a career-high-tying nine OD strikeouts. Some of the names in the Dodgers’ starting lineup included Tony Gwynn Jr., Juan Uribe (not the good version), Rod Barajas and Jamey Carroll. Yikes.

4. April 3, 2017: Dodgers 14, Padres 3

7 IP, 2 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 8 K, .075 WPA, 75 Game Score

This one was wrapped up early, as the Dodgers had a 12-0 lead after five innings. With no need to push Kershaw too hard, he still made it through seven innings of work. He also added a hit and walk at the plate.

5. March 29, 2018: Giants 1, Dodgers 0

6 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 K, .166 WPA, 57 Game Score

This was Kershaw’s lone OD loss, and it came at the hands of Joe Panik, who homered off Kershaw in the top of the fifth inning for the only run of the game. Despite being a little hittable, Kershaw definitely pitched well enough to win the game. However, the Dodgers couldn’t figure out Ty Blach in what would end up being a frustrating season against left-handed pitchers.

6. March 22, 2014: Dodgers 3, Diamondbacks 1

6 2/3 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, .264 WPA, 66 Game Score

This game was played in Australia. You remember that, right? I argued beforehand that Kershaw (and Zack Greinke) shouldn’t have gone on the trip. Well, Kershaw did and came back with a teres major (back) injury. It may or may not have been related to the long travel, but it didn’t matter much in the long run. Kershaw won the NL MVP and Cy Young Award in arguably his best season as a pro.

7. April 6, 2015: Dodgers 6, Padres 3

6 IP, 6 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, -.142 WPA, 55 Game Score

Despite nine strikeouts, Kershaw struggled a bit in this outing. He was trailing 3-2 when he came out of the game. The Dodgers tied the game in the bottom of the seventh before Jimmy Rollins launched a 3-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Dodgers the victory.

8. April 5, 2012: Dodgers 5, Padres 3

3 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 3 K, .145 WPA, 57 Game Score

Kershaw only lasted three innings in this one, but not because of injury or ineffectiveness. He was battling the stomach flu. Despite that, he retired the first eight Padre hitters he faced before loading the bases. He was able to escape unscathed. An 8th-inning home run by Matt Kemp ended up being the difference in the game.

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Kershaw’s workload for today’s season-opener isn’t fully determined. He might be able to go 4-5 innings or as many as 6-7. We’ll see. He’s facing a team in the Giants that he thrives against, so a longer outing may not be out of the question.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.