In January, the Dodgers raised eyebrows by awarding star pitcher Clayton Kershaw the highest average annual salary in MLB History. Statistical gurus figured that the 7-year, $215 million contract pays the 26-year-old slinger an average of $8,863 per pitch. Could he possibly be worth it?

The Dodgers' bet on Kershaw paid off Wednesday with Kershaw's no-hitter against the Colorado Rockies, seen as one of the best pitching performances of all time. Striking out 15 batters with 107 pitches, Kershaw just missed a perfect game (there have been only 22 of those since 1900), when shortstop Hanley Ramirez committed a throwing error in the seventh inning.

Baseball experts had already tapped Kershaw as on track to become one of the greatest pitchers ever, and there are plenty of performances to choose from to make that case. Here are the top five career highlights from the Dodgers' rising ace, with videos by Los Angeles Dodgers.]
5. Kershaw's First Matchup Against the Giants.  April 15, 2009. 

He was only 21 years old, but Kershaw made clear he understood the gravity of L.A.'s rivalry with the Giants. In his first career start against San Francisco, Kershaw decimated the Giants' lineup, striking out 13 batters in seven innings and allowing one hit. 

4. Kershaw's Thousandth Strikeout.  April 17, 2013. See VIDEO.
Kershaw strikes out Yonder Alonso in the second inning, to become only the eighteenth Dodger to reach the 1,000 mark, and the second-fastest Dodger pitcher to reach the milestone in franchise history.

3. Opening Day Home Run.  April 1, 2013. See VIDEO.
At the close of the 2012 season, Kershaw said that he wanted to improve his batting. On opening day of the 2013 season, the pitcher delivered, breaking a scoreless tie in the eighth inning with his first career home run and leading the Dodgers to a 4 – 0 shutout over the Giants. 

Turn the page for more awesome Kershaw moments.
2. Kershaw Defeats Cy Young Winner Tim Lincecum.  September 20, 2011. See VIDEO.
Matchups between Tim Lincecum and Kershaw were a sight to behold. Lincecum, the Giants' pitching prodigy and winner of Cy Young awards in 2008 and 2009, waged fierce battles with Kershaw on the mound, and it was never clear which talent would prevail. 

But September 20, 2011 may have been the day Kershaw passed his rival and never looked back. After allowing just one run in seven innings, Kershaw picked up an impressive 20th win of the season, and made clear which pitcher deserved the Cy Young award. Kershaw got the coveted prize a couple weeks later. 

1. No-Hitter.  June 18, 2014
We'll let Kershaw use his own words:  “As far as individual games go, I'll remember this game for the rest of my life.”

“It was just so much fun, I can't even explain it.” 

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