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One No-Hitter in the Books, Clayton Kershaw Goes for Another Tonight

Alana Rizzo and Clayton Kershaw, June 18, 2014
Alana Rizzo and Clayton Kershaw, June 18, 2014
Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers

Clayton Kershaw is a god, let's face it. The man walks on dirt.

And one final take about last week's no-hitter before we segue from the inevitable Sandy Koufax comparisons to Johnny Vander Meer (fingers, toes, arms, legs, eyes and maybe even testicles crossed), as Kershaw goes for even greater immortality tonight at Kansas City.

Vin Scully, as always, was brilliant in calling the 19th no-hitter of his career last Wednesday night at Chavez Ravine. And while he didn't, Vin might have said this:

On the scoreboard in right field it is 10:07 p.m. in the City of the Angels, Los Angeles, California. And a crowd of 46,069 just sitting in to see the only pitcher in baseball history to hurl a no-hitter, without issuing a walk while striking out 15 batters. He has done it... And Clayton Kershaw, whose name will always remind you of strikeouts, did it with a flurry. He struck three of the last six batters, including Corey Dickerson to end it. So when he wrote his name in capital letters in the record books, that "K" stands out even more than the E-R-S-H-A-W.

As I've been saying since Opening Day 2013 and in so many words since 2011, all Kershaw-Koufax comparisons are on the table. And to be clear, that's an alphabetical-order listing. Because while we can debate the greatness of one over the other, and tally points for either side of an argument, there is no reason to separate the two men any longer.

Not for Kershaw's sake, nor for Koufax's. Not anymore. By this time the two left-handers - the two Dodgers - in a private moment might agree that the comparisons are not just apt, but a sentiment worth cherishing. They'd probably share a hug, and a tear, at the suggestion.

Kershaw tossed his first no-hitter at age 26, 91 days in his 192nd major league start; Koufax twirled his (June 30, 1962 vs. NYM) at 26, 182 days in his 158th start. Kershaw won his first Cy Young Award in 2011 as a 23-year-old Los Angeles ace; Koufax won his first, also for L.A., at 27.

Koufax managed to win five National League ERA titles in a row (from 1961 to 1965), three NL Triple Crowns (for wins, ERA and strikeouts) and two more Cys. Kershaw has won the last three NL ERA titles, but has only one NL Triple Crown to his name. #Slacker.

Koufax went on to pitch no-hitters in 1963, 1964 and 1965; Kershaw might throw another one tonight. Koufax made 40 starts in three different seasons, stuck out 300 batters three times and pitched 300 innings three times. Kershaw never will.

Koufax worked in the great pitcher's park of his day, with the benefit of about twice as much foul territory as exists today and a fence in dead center a whopping 410 feet from home plate. Kershaw's Dodger Stadium is 395 to center, with thousands of fannies in the seats where A.J. Ellis and Adrian Gonzalez might otherwise be able to record an easy out.

Koufax played for Walter Alston; Kershaw for Joe Torre and Don Mattingly.

Koufax has four wins to his credit in the World Series, two World Series MVPs, and most importantly, has three glorious rings in his jewelry case. Kershaw may get one or more of those this very October.

Bottles of virtual ink have been exhausted - cases of bottles, really - by the baseball writers of America in the wake of Kershaw's history-making last week, quite a bit of it thoroughly worth your careful consideration. In addition to the comparisons between Kershaw and Koufax, we are now seeing one no-hit performance compared to another. We've even seen Kershaw's no-hitter compared to others' perfect games, as in these two thoughtful examples, from my buddies David Shoenfield of ESPN.com and the LA TimesSteve Dilbeck.

But the problem with calculations like "game score" when used in this manner is that it presumes that a strikeout is better than any other type of out. And it's not.

A strikeout may be the more glamorous statistic, and there can be no more exciting finish to a no-hitter, but any out is exactly equal to any other out. And a quick out is preferable to the alternative. The best possible mound performance is 27 pitched balls with 27 outs via the pop, ground or fly.

There have been 285 no-hitters recorded in baseball history, and 23 perfect games, poetry-in-motion all. No-hitters are like snowflakes, each breathtaking in its beauty and uniqueness, each as precious as the next. As with your children. (Although I don't know why you would compare one child with another, I'm quite sure there would be no use for a game score.)

Poor Hanley Ramirez. L.A.'s shortstop takes a lot of shit for his glove-work, and my first reaction to the error that spoiled a possible perfect game was anger, followed by exasperation and resignation. But while it might seem to defy logic, there is no telling whether Kershaw would have followed the two-hop grounder to short that opened the seventh inning with another eight outs in succession. Not really.

While it might seem plain as day that since Kershaw retired the next eight men, and it was Hanley's miscue at the time that without question spoiled the perfect effort, remember the Butterfly Effect: every action on this Earth affects another. Perhaps, in pitching from a windup an instant later, Kershaw's next offering to Brandon Barnes would be placed a half-inch (or a half-foot) differently.

Maybe Barnes pops it up and everything continues exactly as before. Or maybe Barnes singles, or homers, or grounds another ball to Ramirez, and runs all the way to third when the shortstop's throw goes wide but remains in play. Or perhaps Troy Tulowitzki does something different, or Wilun Rosario does. What if the Rockies go one-two-three in the top of the seventh and the Dodgers bat around in the bottom half, and Kershaw faces another pitcher and doubles in his next at bat?

Perhaps as fate would have it, Hanley's error, while unfortunate, actually assured the no-hitter while ruining a perfect game simultaneously.

What we know for sure is that Clayton Kershaw pitched a no-hitter June 18, 2014, in the City of Dodgers. Kershaw season mark stands at 7-2, 2.52, 86, his lifetime at 84-48, 2.60 (the lowest career ERA in nearly 100 years) and 1292. He has thrown three fewer no-hitters than Sandy Koufax, and is 427 wins behind Cy Young.

More importantly, the Dodgers, winners of seven of their last 10 games, are four back of the Giants, who have lost 10 of 13. Looking to improve on matters, Kershaw takes the ball tonight versus the Royals' Danny Duffy at 5:10 p.m. at Ewing M. Kauffman Stadium, with a chance to do what no pitcher before or since Vander Meer pitched the second of his back-to-back no-no's on June, 15, 1938.

Like clockwork, the will-he-or-won't-he discussion arises five days after every no-hitter. Good thing Kershaw's performances are like clockwork. I understand Patek Philipp timepieces are quite good. And Rolex makes one in Dodger Blue.

And remember, glove conquers all.

Follow Howard Cole and L.A.Weekly on Twitter.


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