The Dodgers won the National League West for a second consecutive year by defeating the Giants on Wednesday night 9-1 behind a great performance by Clayton Kershaw and some timely hitting (the best equation for success).
The Giants actually struck first, as Kershaw was in a spot of bother in the third inning. With runners on second and third with no outs, Kershaw made a behind-the-back stab at a grounder that would have scored a run. It was a great play by the should-be NL Gold Glove award winner at pitcher. The next batter hit a chopper to third base and Juan Uribe came home. It looked like Joaquin Arias beat the throw, but upon further review, it looked like Arias didn’t even touch the plate. However, Don Mattingly decided not to challenge the play.
The Dodgers were down 1-0 in the fifth inning, Carl Crawford led off by getting hit on the foot and immediately stealing second. He moved to third base on a fly ball to right field. A.J. Ellis popped out to bring up Kershaw with two outs. Naturally, the NL MVP laced a triple to right-center field to tie the game. He motored around the bases, but Dee Gordon couldn’t plate him. Then, the sixth inning happened.
DAT BAT FLIP
That energized the stadium, as Matt Kemp would double with one out. That was the end of Tim Hudson‘s night. Giants’ manager Bruce Bochy brought in left-handed specialist Javier Lopez to face Hanley Ramirez — a curious move for sure. Well, Bochy had Lopez intentionally walk Ramirez. This makes zero sense to me. Why not just have the pitcher who is on his way out issue the free pass? It isn’t my favorite team’s manager who made such a mind-numbingly dumb decision, so ‘tevs. Crawford — who was allowed to stay in the game despite it being a questionable move by some big mouth on Twitter dot com — ripped a double down the right field line to score Kemp and Ramirez. Juan Uribe would drive in Crawford before Ellis grounded into a double play. That was more than enough offense for Kershaw, but he needed some help from his defense after the rally.
After a single allowed to Gregor Blanco on a slider (only the second left-handed hitter to get a hit off the pitch this season), Kershaw-killer Matt Duffy hit a broken-bat single to center field. Then, this happened.
Thank God (and Chad) for GIFs, because this is a lot more fun than trying to explain it.
Kershaw’s final line: 8 IP, 8 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 0 BB, 11 K, 7/0 GO/AO, 117 pitches, 83 strikes
Kershaw’s 117 pitches were a season-high. He isn’t scheduled to start again until Oct. 3, when the Dodgers (likely) will host the Cardinals in the NL Division Series, so the high pitch count isn’t concerning. His 11-strikeout performance gave him 239, the most in the National League. He just might win the (meaningless) pitching Triple Crown. But, assuming he doesn’t throw at all on Sunday (out of the ‘pen, if anything), he finishes this remarkable season with a 1.77 ERA, the lowest ERA by a pitcher in either league since Pedro Martinez‘s amazing 2000 season. Kershaw has all kinds of bold-italic marks on his Baseball-Reference page. This was an MVP performance by the guy who should be the Dodgers’ first MVP since Kirk Gibson in 1988.
I’m just gonna leave this right here.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) June 8, 2014
The Dodgers win the west (no matter what that tweet from June reads), and they probably aren’t going to catch the Nationals for the best record in the NL. After a day off tomorrow, the Dodgers host the Rockies for the final series of the regular season. The Dodgers’ starter is unknown at the point, but Jordan Lyles (7-3, 4.15 ERA) will go against the NL West champs. First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. Pacific. Can it be next Friday already?