Clayton Kershaw is 26 years old, and it's kind of amazing that he just threw his first career no-hitter.
It's not so amazing that he threw a no-hitter, making the hard-hitting Colorado Rockies look positively hapless in the process. What's amazing is that it took him so long.
So far, nothing has come easy for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2014. Key players (Kershaw included) have been bit by injuries. Skipper Don Mattingly has come under fire. Clashing egos and playing-time controversies have fractured the clubhouse.
One season removed from an NLCS appearance, baseball's biggest-spending team seemed to be teetering toward collapse.
This is not an exaggeration: If Clayton Kershaw gets three outs here, he will have pitched one of the greatest games in history. Tune in.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 19, 2014
An array of pitchers—Masahiro Tanaka, Johnny Cueto, Felix Hernandez and even Scott Kazmir—have overshadowed Kershaw this year, making it easy to forget just how dominant he can be.
On Wednesday night Kershaw delivered an indelible reminder to the Rockies, and the rest of the baseball world, with a masterful performance.
Through nine overpowering innings, Kershaw kept it in cruise control. He set a career high with 15 strikeouts yet never seemed to break a sweat. His final pitch count, 107, belied how effortlessly he diced up Colorado's lineup, a lineup that leads the National League in home runs, hits, batting average and runs.
Even in the final frame, Kershaw's fastball was sitting in the mid 90s, and the Colorado hitters looked as off-balance as they had all night.
Only a throwing error by Hanley Ramirez to open the seventh inning stood between Kershaw and perfection. (Ramirez showed visible frustration in the dugout after the error, perhaps a positive sign for a Dodgers team that has lacked cohesion.)
The lanky left-hander, though, shook off the miscue on a night where he had everything working, particularly the otherworldly curve.
Would a perfect game by Clayton Kershaw be the least surprising perfect game ever? Discuss.— Zachary D. Rymer (@zachrymer) June 19, 2014
More than that, he had the presence, the poise, the air of inevitability.
When Kershaw struck out Corey Dickerson with a wicked breaking ball on the outside corner to seal his place in history, he raised his hands in triumph. Not with incredulous joy or exhausted exaltation, but with a clinical certainty that appeared to proclaim, finally.
Ever since he arrived in the big leagues and particularly since 2011—when he won 21 games, struck out 248 and posted a 2.28 ERA—a future no-hitter seemed penciled onto Kershaw's resume.
Did Clayton Kershaw just re-establish himself as the best pitcher in baseball?
But that elusive 27th hitless out had escaped him until Wednesday night, when he did it before an exultant crowd of 46,000-plus at Dodger Stadium, a crowd that's been yearning all year for reasons to cheer.
It was the second no-hitter this season by a Dodgers pitcher, following Josh Beckett's effort May 25 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
“I am so amazed,” Kershaw said after his gem, per the Associated Press. “Beckett told me he was going to teach me how to do that, so I have Josh to thank.”
The 8-0 win moved the Dodgers to 40-34, four games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants, who have lost five straight and eight of their last ten.
More importantly, it gave a shot in the arm to a Dodgers team that is loaded with superstars yet has looked listless at times, as though searching for a spark.
On Wednesday, Kershaw provided that spark. He lit a fire.
And he reminded all of us why he is, quite simply, amazing.